PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
August 8, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Department of Health Highlights Success During National Breastfeeding Month

New Jersey Breastfeeding Rates Improving

New Jersey is seeing significant progress in improving breastfeeding rates. In the 2014 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card, New Jersey rates have increased in all categories since last year's report. 

  • Breastfeeding at 6 months is up 18.6% (47.4% to 56.2%)
  • Breastfeeding at 12 months: up 14.4% (27% to 30.9%)
  • Exclusive Breastfeeding at 3 months: up 15.8% (34.2% to 39.6%)
  • Exclusive Breastfeeding at 6 months: up 71.5% (13% to 22.3%)
  • Ever Breastfed is up 5.9% (77.1% to 81.6%)

"Breastfeeding is the best source of infant nutrition, protects babies from illness and provides health benefits to mothers as well," said Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "Infants who are breastfed for nine months have a 30 percent reduced risk of childhood obesity, according to the CDC.

"Mothers need information, help and skilled support when they breastfeed. That's why the Department is working with healthcare providers to improve support for breastfeeding mothers and their infants," the Commissioner said.

The Department of Health has been focusing on improving New Jersey's breastfeeding rates with several initiatives, partnering with hospitals, providers and community based organizations. "Our increased rates in the CDC Report Card demonstrate our collective success,'' O'Dowd said. 

Recognizing that hospitals play a critical role in increasing the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, the Department awarded grants of $10,000 each to 10 maternity hospitals across the state in 2011 to support implementation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, which encourages and recognizes hospitals that promote and support breastfeeding. New Jersey Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is based on a program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched in 1991. Since our state began this initiative, we have gone from zero to four Baby-Friendly designated hospitals: Inspira Medical Center Elmer, Capital Health Medical Center - Hopewell, CentraState Medical Center in Freehold, and Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. Twenty-two hospitals are working toward achieving this designation.

New Jersey also adopted changes to hospital rules that would ensure support to mothers who wish to breastfeed in the hospital. These amended rules also require hospitals to identify, assess, plan for, and accommodate the breastfeeding needs of a nursing mother and/or child who presents to the hospital for treatment at the Emergency Department, outpatient services, or for inpatient admission.

In June 2014, the Department and New Jersey Hospital Association sponsored the "New Jersey Mother-Baby Summit" that was attended by representatives from every delivery hospital in the state. The program highlighted the changes to the hospital regulations; best practices in infant feeding and outlined how to overcome challenges to achieving the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is also promoted through the New Jersey Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. WIC offers breastfeeding classes and counseling. Women who exclusively breastfeed their infants receive the largest WIC food package to support their nutrition while nursing. On Friday, Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito visited a WIC breastfeeding class at St. Joseph's Regional Medical Center in Paterson to highlight World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7, 2014 and National Breastfeeding Month. Since 2010, there has been a 21% increase in exclusive breastfeeding among WIC moms in the state.

Other events around the state are being held to highlight the importance of breastfeeding. The "Camden Celebrates Breastfeeding" event is being held on August 9 at Dudley Grange Park in Camden, NJ from 10:00am to 1:00 pm. This free celebration is being sponsored by Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative and Gateway Community Action's WIC Program.

The Gateway Community Action's WIC Program with Inspira Health Network is also hosting another World Breastfeeding Month Celebration on Saturday August 10 at the U-Sell Flea Market in Vineland, NJ from 10am to 2pm.

According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast milk helps boost the immune systems of infants and can reduce the risk of respiratory infection and Type 1 Diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed have lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum depression. 

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