By Brenda Flanagan
Nine month old Juliette had a midday snack. Mother Amy Nansteel says, more moms breastfeed discreetly in public now — because it’s more accepted by society. But eight years ago, she says, an angry woman scolded her.
“She was like, “You’re ignorant!” she publicly attacked me,” said Nansteel. “She spun around on her heel and she goes, “I’m a nurse! I have a PhD! I know breastfeeding is best, but you don’t do it where people can see you!”
Surveys by the CDC show that in 2011, breastfeeding trended steadily upwards in New Jersey. The number of newborns who were still exclusively breastfeeding at six months increased by 71.5 percent, that brought New Jersey’s total up to 22 percent. The number at three months rose by 15.8 percent — totaling almost 40 percent of newborns breastfeeding exclusively. Pediatrician Alla Gordina’s guardedly optimistic.
“New Jersey, unfortunately, was at the bottom of the list — it was one of the worst breastfeeding states in the nation. It was very painful but we’re moving,” said Gordina.
Gordina organizes conferences and classes like the one at Rutgers/Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Her goal: to educate both moms and doctors about how to support breastfeeding.
“I’m really proud of the very good job the state is doing – but I definitely believe that we have huge room for improvement,” Gordina said.
21 of 52 New Jersey hospitals — almost half — haves “banned the bag” — they are no longer sending new moms home with goody bags filled with formula.
“What happens in the hospital is critically important. If the mother doesn’t leave the hospital breastfeeding – it’s hard to get that back on track,” said NJ Breastfeeding Coalition President Ellen Maughan.
Hospitals now follow new rules supported by New Jersey’s Department of Health. And other programs like WIC – the Women Infants and Children’s Program — offers support after moms take their newborns home.
“We’ve used our WIC program as an initiative to help moms how are eligible for WIC services, start and initiate breastfeeding through services such as nutrition education and benefits and breastfeeding classes as well as an enhanced food package for those moms that are breastfeeding their children,” said NJ Department of Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.
Breastfeeding among WIC moms has increased 21 percent since 2010, giving babies a better chance at a healthy start in life.