State nourishes regional breastfeeding efforts

Feeder system: Northwell Health will use state funds to promote breastfeeding education.

Albany will pump millions into the Northwell Health system specifically to promote, protect and support breastfeeding networks in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Long Island Jewish Medical Center will receive $1.2 million over the next five years from the New York State Department of Health, one of six recipients – along with programs in New York City and upstate – to be funded through the state breastfeeding initiative.

The idea is to build innovative support systems where families are “encouraged to meet their breastfeeding goals,” according to Northwell Health, New York State’s largest healthcare provider by number of patients and providers.

The initiative expands existing “community-based breastfeeding coalitions,” the health system said in a statement, while attempting to increase New York State Breastfeeding Friendly designations – a function of the Department of Health’s Obesity Prevention Program – at obstetrician and pediatrician offices and childcare centers.

While a healthy debate has rattled for years, breastfeeding has been scientifically linked to increased infection resistance for baby – Northwell Health cited studies showing “breastfed babies are less likely to develop certain illnesses” including ear infections, asthma and diabetes – not to mention superior cognitive development and even health benefits for mom.

Henry Bernstein: League of his own.

Despite the benefits, for reasons ranging from medical to social, not all moms breastfeed. To help overcome the social hurdles, the LIJ Medical Center will support new mothers returning to “what will become breastfeeding friendly worksites,” according to Northwell Health, while overseeing the creation of multiple Baby Cafes – local meeting sites “established to further promote this breastfeeding initiative.”

Noting that breastfeeding offers “many preventive health benefits for infants and mothers,” Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine pediatrics professor Henry Bernstein, who led the breastfeeding grant application, said the mission is to establish “a breastfeeding-friendly care continuum in targeted Long Island communities.”

Long Island Jewish Medical Center will also work to establish networks that help reduce disparities in breastfeeding rates between ethnicities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, progress has been made in closing the breastfeeding gap between black and white newborns, but there’s plenty of room for improvement – and education is key, according to Bernstein.

“Families will be educated perinatally in obstetric and pediatric offices to assure optimal support for breastfeeding moms,” the professor said Monday. “Breastfeeding mothers also will be supported at their childcare (and) daycare centers and workplaces.

“Through our collaborative efforts, more mothers will have access to the breastfeeding support, education and resources that they need to be successful.”

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