Shine Bright like a BF STAR: Benefits of Social Support of Breastfeeding
By: Shenika Holmes, Public Health Intern (BF STARS)
Shelby County Health Department
Hi, my name is Shenika Holmes, and I am a proud supporter of breastfeeding!
How many children do I have? Zero.
Am I expecting? No.
Yet, I am a young, African-American woman in the child bearing years of 15-35 from a neighborhood in Memphis- Shelby County, Tennessee characterized by low socioeconomic status, high rates of infant mortality and low breastfeeding rates. This snapshot of me is not just to further introduce myself but to shine light and even challenge us, warriors of public health, to dually engage the “soon-to-be mothers” as well as the “could-be mothers.”
This summer, I worked with the Shelby County Health Department, Community Health Bureau, and Maternal Child Health Section in accomplishing start-up operations for the BF S.T.A.R.S (Breastfeeding Sisters That Are Receiving Support) Program. BF STARS aims to reduce disparities in breastfeeding in Shelby County through professional and peer lactation support. My time with the program has allowed me, a “could be mother”, to gain more knowledge about breastfeeding and its importance to a baby and its mother.
Breastfeeding is a natural, nutritionally balanced and cost effective way to feed a baby and also provides greater health benefits for the mom and baby such as:
- Reducing risk of cold and infections
- Promoting healthy brain development and cognitive skills
- Reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and obesity
- Lowering the risks of respiratory conditions such as Asthma and Allergies
- Improving Mom’s postpartum weight
- Providing a positive emotional and mental benefits, to include the decreased likelihood of depression
My biggest take away from my experience is that a greater antidote to the present disparities of breastfeeding could lie within support and support systems reflective of BF S.T.A.R.S. Support aids in dispelling breastfeeding myths, buffers stress and increases the success of the breastfeeding experience when faced with barriers.
A community of healthier babies really starts with healthy, empowered mothers and women.
For more information about breastfeeding, please contact the Shelby County Health Department’s Clinical Services Section at 901-222-9847.