Tennessee ranks near the bottom when it comes to breastfeeding, according to a new report.
The Centers for Disease Control says the Volunteer State is among the worst in the country for the number of breastfed babies.
That ranking comes despite a push to educate new moms at hospitals across Middle Tennessee on the importance of breast milk.
“It’s not that the formula isn’t needed sometimes for babies,” Joy Farrell, a lactation consultant at TriStar Stonecrest Medical Center in Smyrna, explained, “but it’s a matter of giving baby formula early on will prevent your production of milk and how well your baby is breastfed.”
Farrell continued, “Some new mothers don’t realize that and once I can talk to a new mother and reassure them [they do have enough milk for their new baby].”
Doctors say family history can also contribute to the low numbers of women who breastfeed.
Formula was very popular for a time in the 1980s and in many families new mothers do not have older generations to lean on for support.
The focus now is on education and the benefits of breastfeeding at hospitals.
“Beyond the benefits to the baby, moms also get a huge benefit from that as well,” said Dr. Mark Hughes with Stonecrest Medical Center. “We’re learning a lot about the long term health benefits to the mother with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes, lowering those incidents.”
The Tennessee Department of Health is also behind a new push to promote breastfeeding in hospitals as many hospitals have connections to support groups for breastfeeding moms.
The health department and the CDC urge moms to check with their hospital and get connected.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends moms breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.