OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Feeding your child can be a very personal and bonding experience, whether it be through breastfeeding or bottle feeding. While we’ve made some strides to make breastfeeding a more accessible option, experts say we still have room to grow.
"It is a process, and our culture does not make it easy," said Kathy Leeper, medical director of MilkWorks, a resource that offers classes and consultations for breastfeeding parents.
Leeper says everyday things, like educating about breastfeeding, to bigger picture ideas, like paid maternity leave, could help more parents continue breastfeeding. Right now, only about two-thirds are meeting their personal goals.
The latest data from the CDC shows that over 85% of infants in Nebraska are ever breastfed, and by the time those babies are six months old, the number drops to around 63%.
In Iowa, 80% of infants are ever breastfed, and at six months that number drops to 54%.
The data is still being collected on who the pandemic affected these numbers, but MilkWorks says over the past 18 months they’ve been helping more families through in-person and virtual consultations and classes.
Working from home seems to be making breastfeeding more accessible and many parents are learning of the potential health benefits.
Stephanie Bradley with the Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition said parents who are concerned about COVID should continue breastfeeding their babies.
“Breastfeeding from breast milk provides antibodies, lots of them, in a way that other breast milk substitutes can not," Bradley said. "So breastfeeding is a preventative measure too.”
Resources like the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa, which helps provide breast milk to hospitals and families in 12 states, say they’re also seeing a huge increase in donations.
“In 2020, we had to purchase seven new freezers because we are getting so much milk," said donor coordinator Heidi Baudhuin.
The donated milk is pasteurized and donors are screened.
Baudhuin says it's a good option for mothers who are having physical issues breastfeeding, premature babies, and adoptive families. Patients can get the donated milk during their hospital stays or they can get a doctor's prescription to have it sent to their homes.
The lactation experts say they’ll be helping families as they breastfeed through the pandemic and beyond.