With the world in the midst of a global pandemic, Morrison County Public Health feels it is a good time to recognize the important role breastfeeding plays in protecting babies from germs all across the planet.

The Morrison County WIC Program is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month throughout August. The theme for World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1 – 7, is “Support breastfeeding for healthier families, healthier communities, healthier planet.” The theme for Black Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 25 – 31, is “Revive, Restore, Reclaim.”

As the world’s leading scientists race to find a COVID-19 vaccine, humans have their own, natural way of protecting the next generation. Moms, through breast milk, pass on helpful antibodies that fight germs.

Though it is too early to know for sure, researchers are finding evidence that moms who previously had COVID-19 may pass on helpful antibodies that can fight the virus.

Parents may worry about the safety of breastfeeding during the pandemic. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding. The benefits simply outweigh the potential risk of spreading the virus to the baby. In addition, researchers have not found the infectious virus in breastmilk. Even when a mother has COVID-19, she is advised to still breastfeed while doing hand hygiene and wearing a mask when with baby.

This year’s worldwide breastfeeding week also emphasizes how “green” and climate friendly breastfeeding is. Human milk is a natural, renewable food produced and delivered to babies without pollution, packaging or waste.

Finally, promoting and removing barriers to breastfeeding for people of color is one way to address structural racism in Minnesota. COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black, people of color and American Indians in Minnesota due to underlying social, economic and health disparities. These same underlying factors have made it more difficult over the years for Minnesotans of color to breastfeed.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative has reduced racial disparities in breastfeeding rates. The Minnesota Department of Health recognizes maternity centers that have taken steps toward implementing breastfeeding friendly practices through the Minnesota Breastfeeding Friendly Maternity Center Designation Program.

“The pandemic has illuminated the many ways health is interconnected,” said nutritionist Jenifer Drill. “Given all we face in 2020, let’s not forget to promote breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is one of these pathways to health, right at the start of life, with far reaching benefits for families, communities and the planet.”

For more information, contact WIC. WIC provides free healthy foods and nutrition counseling to young families. Call WIC at (320) 632-6664 for more information.

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