August is National Breastfeeding Month and National Immunization Awareness Month. Breastfeeding our infant children and immunizing them as they develop and grow are critical to our country’s overall health and well-being.
Breastfeeding is celebrated across our nation and around the world as the preferred method of infant nutrition with the objective to continue as long as possible, but at least for the first six months of life. The CDC 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card indicated that breastfeeding rates in the U.S. continue to rise, and 79% of newborn infants started to breastfeed in 2011. The CDC credited a growing number of lactation specialists for the increase in breastfeeding, and we know that there are many PNPs who are also credentialed as IBCLC. Kudos to these folks! On the down side, the CDC published immunization rates of about 90% among infants 18 to 36 months. Ongoing parent concerns and lack of access to care contribute to these numbers not being 100%.
The goal of National Breastfeeding Month is to promote breastfeeding and increase awareness of the benefits, which include protection from infection, provision of critical nutrients for early brain and overall physical development, easy digestion, bonding between mother and baby, and many other long-term effects: too many to mention here!
World Breastfeeding Week 2015, Aug. 1-7 (WABA: World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action) was supported by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), with the initiative this year to encourage “breastfeeding friendly” work places that enable women to feed their infants for as long as possible in comfortable, private locations.
The Healthy People 2020 objectives for promotion of breastfeeding include increasing the percentage of employers providing worksite lactation support, reducing the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation and increasing the percentage of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their infants (CDC, 2015).
We observe National Immunization Awareness Month to highlight the importance of immunizations, “one of the top 10 public health accomplishments of the 20th century” (CDC). According to Healthy People 2020, the increase in life expectancy during the 20th century is largely due to reductions in infectious disease mortality. However, vaccinations for a number of infectious diseases are still too low. Healthy People 2020 immunization objectives include increasing the percentage of children who are vaccinated against seasonal influenza and increasing the percentage of both male and female teens who receive at least three doses of the HPV vaccine.
NAPNAP's Breastfeeding Education and Immunization SIGs offer many resources for professionals and families in the support of these important goals. You can learn more about these SIGs and join their efforts by going to their webpages:
The CDC provides breastfeeding and immunization resources on its website as well:
Social media is another way you can support the attributes of breastfeeding and immunization, provide your own encouragement for these important initiatives and participate in online discussions. Try Twitter: #NBM15, #WBW2015, #breastfeeding for breastfeeding awareness or #NIAM15 for National Immunization Awareness month.