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SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Breastfeeding is a traditional medicine for our babies. In coordination with Breastfeeding Awareness Month, the Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan is re-releasing their culturally tailored toolkit “Breastfeeding: Following Tradition Works for Working Women.” The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan worked with Michigan Tribes to create the breastfeeding toolkit which is aimed at helping American Indian employers understand and support breastfeeding employees.
According to 2009 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indian and Alaska Native youth have the highest prevalence of obesity and overall are the only group with increasing rates. In adulthood, these rates are even higher; nearly 40% of AI/AN adults are obese and an additional 30% are overweight. Obesity is known to contribute to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and several types of cancer.
Breastfeeding reduces obesity in both the mother and the child. A breastfed child receives the benefit of reductions in the incidence of obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, ear infections, asthma in young children, respiratory infections, and skin inflammation or infection. For the mother, breastfeeding reduces the risk of not only obesity, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression, but also reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommend that babies receive nothing but breast milk for about the first six months of life. They also recommend that mothers continue breastfeeding at least until the end of a baby’s first year.
In support of this effort, the Michigan Breastfeeding Network has announced a statewide initiative to provide continuity of care for mothers and babies. Supporters of this effort include hospitals; Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) agencies; community stakeholders; coalitions; physicians; and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). Goals of this collaboration include higher breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, healthier babies and closer families. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card, 80.8 percent of Michigan mothers have ever breastfed. However, that number drops to 51.6 percent at six months of age and 31.8 percent at 12 months.
The Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan’s Breastfeeding Toolkit provides information, and culturally relevant tools and resources to help tribal employers and employees in their efforts to support breastfeeding in the workplace. “Tribal worksites are an especially important setting for breastfeeding promotion since they affect a large number of community members,” said Cathy Edgerly, Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Consortium and REACH Project Manager. “By making reasonable accommodations for breastfeeding employees, employers can help support the many health benefits that breastfeeding provides to the baby as well as the nursing mother. These benefits include a lower risk of weight gain and related chronic disease, along with a decreased risk for breast, cervical, and colon cancer in the mother.”
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