Despite efforts to reduce disparities in breastfeeding, only 44% of African-American women report that they breastfeed compared with 66 and 68% of Hispanic and white women, respectively. According to UNICEF, there is a 14-fold difference in survival rates in the first 6 months, in developing countries, between children who have been breastfed exclusively and non-breastfed children. These disparities in breastfeeding and other key challenges and opportunities in the ongoing mission to encourage and support breastfeeding are discussed in a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding Medicine, published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers and the Official Journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. The issue presents the proceedings of the Fourth Annual Summit on Breastfeeding, held in Washington, DC that brought together experts in maternal and infant health and policymakers, with the support of an educational grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The issue is available free on the Breastfeeding Medicine website*.
Breastfeeding represents a cost-effective, easily accessible, low-tech solution to reducing infant mortality rates and improving developmental outcomes for children and immediate and long-term infant and maternal health outcomes.
The special issue includes articles on putting breastfeeding on the worldwide agenda by Nicholas Alipui, MD, Director of Programmes, UNICEF, New York; collaborative engagements to overcome barriers to breastfeeding by Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen, MD, U.S. Virgin Islands; progress on the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding by Laurence Grummer-Strawn, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; bringing the case for breastfeeding to African-American mothers by Kuae Kelch Mattox, MS, Mocha Moms, Inc., Upper Montclair, NJ; breastfeeding as a critical weapon in the fight against childhood obesity by Heather McTeer, JD, former mayor, Greenville, MS; and accelerating progress in changing the future of our nation’s children by Gail C. Christopher, DN, Vice President for Program Strategy, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI.
Arthur Eidelman, MD, Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, shared his views on the American Academy of Pediatrics 2012 Breastfeeding Policy Statement. O. Marion Burton, MD, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Columbia, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, highlighted breastfeeding as an essential strategy for the Academy’s agenda regarding epigenetics and early brain and child development.
Breastfeeding progress at the statewide level was explored by several speakers, including Joshua Sharfstein, MD from the State of Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Baltimore.
A panel on the role of the National Prevention Council, with a presentation by Jeffrey Levi, PhD, the Council’s Advisory Committee Chair, underscored the importance of breastfeeding as a preventive measure for women and children. The Committee will continue to track the Council’s progress in developing strategies to increase breastfeeding through access to breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment as part of ACA.
“The imperative to encourage and support breastfeeding is greater than ever,” says Summit Chair Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry and Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine. “The spirit of cooperation is palpable and the enthusiasm for progress is spreading throughout the private sector.” Cynthia R. Howard, MD, MPH, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, was Summit Co-Chair.