Breastfeeding meeting targets childhood obesity

LIHU‘E — Cash Lopez of the state Department of Health said the Health Care Professional Training sessions were well received by the Wilcox Memorial Hospital and the Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital.

“Both sessions were standing-room only,” Lopez said. “The training sessions were punctuated by a day-long symposium on breastfeeding.”

Thomas Noyes, project coordinator for Communities Putting Prevention to Work, said the three-day event was coordinated through the efforts of D.Q. Jackson of Malama Pono Health Services.

Kaua‘i Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., following his appearance at the symposium last week at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort, offered a proclamation announcing August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Monday.

The State of Hawai‘i Department of Health joins in the worldwide campaign during the month of August to encourage women to breastfeed their babies exclusively until babies are six months old and then supplement breast milk with solid foods until the baby’s first birthday, or longer, the proclamation states.

Breastfeeding helps protect against childhood obesity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states.

CDC claims childhood obesity is an epidemic. In the United States, one preschooler in five is at least overweight, and of these, half are obese.

A baby’s risk of becoming an overweight child goes down with each month of breastfeeding. In the United States, most babies start breastfeeding, but within the first week, half have already been given formula, and by nine months, only 31 percent of babies are breastfeeding at all, the CDC states.

Additionally, mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers.

Breast milk provides optimal nutrition and a perfectly-balanced diet which builds a healthy immune system and prevents illness, the proclamation states.

According to the CDC, 75 percent of women in the United States start to breastfeed, but only 13 percent continue to exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months.

Breastfeeding provides lifelong health benefits for women and children, and a study in the journal “Pediatrics,” estimates that if 90 percent of U.S. babies were breastfed exclusively for six months, the nation would save $13 billion annually in health care costs.

Breastfeeding builds stronger, healthier families and provides essential nutrients for optimal growth and brain development in young children which results in higher IQs for people who were breastfed while lessening their chances for asthma, diabetes, cancer, obesity, respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases throughout their lifetime.

The breastfeeding mother develops a unique bond with her child and aids in a baby’s emotional development, lowering the risk of child abuse and neglect, the proclamation states.

Noyes said some of the CDC vital statistics show less than nine percent of Hawai‘i’s babies are born in certified Baby Friendly hospitals, something which the health care professionals training is addressing.

Visit www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/Breastfeeding/index.html, www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding, or www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/ for more information.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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