Mothers gather to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week
on August 4, 2011
Health workers, government officials, including Vice Mayor Desley Brooks, and dozens of mothers and their children gathered in front of Oakland City Hall Thursday afternoon to celebrate 2011 World Breastfeeding Week.
The celebration is a worldwide event that happens every year during the first week of August to raise awareness of the importance of breast milk for infants, and is organized by the Alameda County Medical Center and a number of child health advocacy groups, including the Alameda County Breastfeeding Coalition and Alameda County First Five. Around 100 people showed up to the rally in Oakland on Thursday.
“The goal is to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life,” Michele Bunker-Alberts, a nurse practitioner at Alameda County Medical Center, told the crowd, “which yields tremendous health benefits providing critical nutrients and protection from diseases for mothers and children.”
According to Bunker-Alberts, babies who drink their mother’s milk are 15 times more likely to stay healthy in their first year of life compared to those who are fed formula. The U.S. Surgeon General, Department of Healthcare Services as well as the World Health Organizations all recommend mothers breastfeed their children, Bunker-Alberts said.
Alameda County and the City of Oakland both proclaimed August to be breastfeeding awareness month in order to educate parents and call on employers to provide a breastfeeding friendly environment at working places.
According to the state’s Lactation Accommodation Law, employers are obligated to provide break time as well as appropriate space for mothers at work to breastfeed. Vice Mayor Desley Brooks said at the rally that the city is implementing the policy in all departments and will strive to create a friendly environment for breastfeeding mothers.
“Eighty-seven percent of the mothers in California choose to breastfeed,” Oakland Brooks said at the rally. “It’s important that we provide atmospheres that allow our employees to prepare milk for their children.”
Etelbina Ocon, a 36-year-old mother of three children, said she breastfeeds all her babies, including her 20-month old daughter. “She barely gets any allergies or coughs,” Ocon said, adding that she convinced her cousins and sister-in-law to breastfeed as well.
Carly Strouse, Co-Chair of the Alameda Breastfeeding Coalition, said the number of women breastfeeding has been increasing over the years, but there’s still a lack of assistance and education for mothers on how to breastfeed after they give birth. “So we want to see support systems in place [in hospitals] for women to breastfeed,” Strouse said.
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