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

The Isanti County Public Health 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 develop 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 (washing hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer) and wear a mask when she is with her 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.

Supporting breastfeeding through culturally appropriate care increases breastfeeding initiation and duration across all racial and cultural groups. Isanti County Public Health WIC supports breastfeeding by promoting breastfeeding to clients, providing lactation counselors, and providing a breastfeeding room for staff and visitors. In addition, Isanti County Public Health has a Milk Depot for approved moms to donate breastmilk, and a lactation privacy tent available for community events. 

“The pandemic has illuminated the many ways health is interconnected,” said Yvonne Sievert, Isanti County Public Health WIC Coordinator. “Given all we face in 2020, let’s not forget to promote breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is one of the pathways to health, right at the start of life, with far reaching benefits for families, communities, and the planet.”

For more information, contact Isanti County Public Health WIC Coordinator, Yvonne Sievert, 763-689-4212. People can also apply online for WIC on the Isanti County Website https://www.co.isanti.mn.us/FormCenter/Public-Health-8/Women-Infants-and-Children-WIC-Applicati-53.

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