Breastfeeding Family Friendly Places of Worship, thank you for supporting families during this global pandemic. It has been hard on the community and, in particular, worship communities. Breastfeed Durham has begun work on implementing a breastfeeding-supportive initiative in our faith communities. Places of worship can support minority health and first food equity by adopting breastfeeding family-friendly practices and, then, affirming their support by applying for the Breastfeeding Welcome Here Award from Breastfeed Durham. Breastfeeding plays an important role in supporting maternal and infant health and is a vital component of maternal health. Breastfeeding saves lives and provides health and development benefits for infants and their mothers. Everyone benefits when our community is healthier. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Breastfed children have fewer ear, respiratory and urinary tract infections and have diarrhea less often. Infants who are exclusively breastfed tend to need fewer health care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations resulting in a lower total medical care cost compared to never-breastfed infants.
Breastfeeding Family Friendly Places of Worship provides a welcoming environment that is friendly, accepting, and supportive of breastfeeding families. The faith community plays an important role in supporting infant feeding. Place of worship staff and volunteers should understand how to support families choosing to breastfeed. Decisions that the faith community makes in regards to infant feeding have an impact on the family’s success in meeting breastfeeding goals. Recommendations and best practices faith-based communities of all sizes to fully support breastfeeding families. These guidelines are for spiritual leaders, employees, volunteers, partner organizations, and those who handle the spiritual needs of the community, work directly with the public, and conduct educational programs in places of worship.
Places of worship play a critical role in supporting breastfeeding families. It is important for the faith community’s staff and volunteers to understand how to support families choosing to breastfeed. It also is important for spiritual leadership to understand how to support breastfeeding staff and volunteers by providing them with adequate break time and space to express their milk or breastfeed their babies while working their shifts.
Lack of Understanding: We all know that, in addition to the usual exhaustion that all new parents face, some breastfeeding parents also deal with the lack of understanding and the stigma that surrounds breastfeeding. Without support, many families can feel like outsiders in their extended family and in their community. The numbers are improving, though. The best way to improve breastfeeding success rates is to provide support and adequate resources to those interested. In the United States, nearly 90% of families choose to start breastfeeding. However, they need support from the community to continue breastfeeding their babies exclusively and for longer periods of time. In addition, studies show that families with lower incomes also receive less breastfeeding support, and they experience more barriers; thus, they often tend to stop breastfeeding earlier. Welcoming breastfeeding at the Places of Worship can provide the support that the family needs to continue to breastfeed.
Is Breastfeeding Important: All major medical organizations promote breastfeeding for optimal child health and development and recommend breastfeeding for as long as the parent and child want to continue. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all babies receive only human milk for their first six months. This is called exclusive breastfeeding, meaning that the babies receive the healthiest choice: only human milk and no infant formula, solid foods, or water. It allows babies to stay healthier and promotes growth.
- Breastfeeding saves lives! Human milk is always clean; requires no fuel, water, or electricity; and is always available, even in the most dire circumstances.
- Human milk contains antibodies that fight infection, including ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory infections common among infants in emergency situations and in childcare environments.
- Human milk provides infants with optimal nutrition, including the proper amount of vitamins and minerals required for normal growth.
- Infants who are exclusively breastfed tend to need fewer health care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations, resulting in a lower total medical care cost compared to never-breastfed infants.
- Breastfeeding releases hormones that lower stress and anxiety in both babies and parents.
- Human milk changes to meet the baby’s changing needs and promotes normal brain development.
- The safest baby food is the parent’s own milk. Donor human milk is the next best option. Parents who cannot directly feed their babies also can be supported to express their milk
The start is often rough. The first few months are the hardest, particularly if you have very few parents to look to as examples. Parents are counting on their family and their community to help them persist in the face of a challenge. We realize that breastfeeding, while beautiful, can be exhausting and time-consuming — especially if you’re feeding based on your infant’s cues. We should NOT expect new parents to be up, cleaning, and doing normal activities. We know that breastfeeding uses energy from the whole body. Especially if the mother is returning to work early, you can help families meet their breastfeeding goals with a little information about breastfeeding and plenty of access to support.
New parents still need lots of help, lots of support, and lots of loving family members around to prepare meals or throw in a load of laundry. Much of this information may be new to you! They need people to be patient with them as they figure out both breastfeeding and parenthood. And babies still need their grandparents and other loved ones to love and care for them. Your practical help and support are a golden investment in the baby’s future and in your lives together. Life is very busy for parents with a new baby, and it would mean a lot if you could choose one item from this list to help the family.
- Buy groceries.
- Prepare meals.
- Do the laundry.
- Run errands.
- Complete household chores.
- Ask what parents would like or need.
It’s important to support breastfeeding, not compete with it. Family members or friends may be concerned that they will not have a chance to bond with the baby. A “relief bottle” may seem helpful, but it’s more likely to cause breastfeeding problems. Be assured that bonding does not require feeding the baby on your part. See “Help from Family and Friends” for ideas to get to know the baby and support the family!.
Have a written policy: We encourage the faith community to adopt a breastfeeding family-friendly policy and seek support within your faith community. A policy can provide information about the benefits of breastfeeding and ways to support the family’s decision to breastfeed. A supportive breastfeeding-friendly written policy should include the following:
- Breastfeeding families are always welcomed and respected. They will never be treated poorly, asked to stop breastfeeding, or asked to cover up or move
- Create a private place, as space allows and that is not a bathroom, for staff to express their milk and to accommodate staff and other parents who may wish to nurse their infants in private while in the facilities while welcoming breastfeeding in the public spaces.
- All lactating employees are allowed breaks to express milk or nurse their children and access to a private space for expressing milk or nursing. Space is not a bathroom; is lockable and shielded from view; includes an electrical outlet, and has hand hygiene available.
- Ensure that all staff receives copies of the breastfeeding policy (staff, volunteers, and others working with community members, especially those who have contact with
New research has shown that breastfeeding is important for the baby’s health and development and for the parent’s health, both now and in the future. It’s even good for the environment. Research has found that breastfeeding works best when the baby is fed in response to hunger cues, not on a schedule. That’s usually quite frequently, especially in the beginning, when the infant’s frequent feeding is establishing the milk supply. Fortunately, you can’t feed too often. Most medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively—no formula or solid foods—for six months or so, and continue breastfeeding with solid foods added to their diet into the toddler years—even two years or more. WHO and UNICEF recommend that children initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life–meaning no other foods or liquids are provided, including water. Infants should be breastfed on demand–that is as often as the child wants, day and night. No bottles, teats (nipples) or pacifiers should be used. From the age of 6 months, children should begin eating safe and adequate complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years and beyond. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “exclusively breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, and then gradually adding solid foods while continuing breastfeeding until at least the baby’s first birthday. Thereafter, breastfeeding can be continued for as long as both mother and baby desire it.”
- Educate all family members in your faith community (e.g., grandparents, aunts, and uncles, siblings) about breastfeeding through workshops, campaigns, and educational initiatives.
- Continue to provide education to staff and families and share resources to support breastfeeding.
- Encourage faith leaders to talk about the policy.
- Identify breastfeeding advocates and families who are currently breastfeeding or breastfed in the past to assist and support other nursing families
- Choose members of your organization to be breastfeeding family-friendly advocates,
- Identify families who are currently breastfeeding or breastfed in the past to assist and support other breastfeeding families.
- Display the Breastfeeding Symbol, stickers, window clings, or signage in a visible
location and even on your website indicating that you welcome breastfeeding families in
the place of worship.
- Set up a clean, comfortable private space for your staff, volunteers, and clients to
express milk or breastfeed, while welcoming breastfeeding throughout the facility.
- Hang an educational poster in your breakroom, and educate your employees and
volunteers about the place of worship’s commitment, policy, and practices for welcoming breastfeeding families.
Breastfeeding Support Groups
Many groups are meeting online to make it possible to get the support you need!
La Leche League Durham
- 2nd Monday at 6:30 pm
- 3rd Thursday at 10:30 am
- 1st Wednesday at 10 am
- All online at https://LLLdurham.org/
- 919-624-0230 or 912-856-7948
- 2nd Tuesday at 11:30
- Spanish Durham WIC: 2nd Thursday at 11:30
- Linda.firstname.lastname@example.org for info or call 919-956-4042
General Breastfeeding Information
- https://globalhealthmedia.org Global Health Media Project: Short videos (7-10 minutes) about breastfeeding management; filmed on three continents in multiple countries with a high level of cultural sensitivity.
For more information about breastfeeding and resources, such as peer support groups or outpatient breastfeeding services, contact your local health department or BreastfeedDurham.org.