Tag Archives: breastfeeding

What’s Your Story?

what is your story question in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks, stained by color inks, isolated on white

Do you have a story you’d like to share about the importance of prenatal care? Have you been involved in a successful program and want to share your story? Do you belong to an organization in Shelby County that could benefit others to ensure their baby is healthy? We are looking for personal stories for the IMRI blog, and we’d like to feature you as a guest blogger! Send an email to ShelbycountyIMRI@gmail.com and someone from our team will be in contact with you.


What’s your story?

what is your story question in vintage wooden letterpress printing blocks, stained by color inks, isolated on white

Do you have a story you’d like to share about the importance of prenatal care? Have you been involved in a successful program and want to share your story? Do you belong to an organization in Shelby County that could benefit others to ensure their baby is healthy? We are looking for personal stories for the IMRI blog, and we’d like to feature you as a guest blogger! Send an email to ShelbycountyIMRI@gmail.com and someone from our team will be in contact with you.

Benefits of Social Support of Breastfeeding

Shenika Holmes

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.

Our Tiniest Population Needs the Best Beginning!

Copy of GRC6304-Stiles Pic 11-08

Allison Stiles, M.D., FAAP

Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Breastfeeding Medicine

Chair, Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition


Infant Mortality – what an important topic! Our tiniest population needs the best beginning!   Breastfeeding is known to reduce Infant Mortality.   On the world-wide stage, UNICEF estimates breastfeeding exclusively six months would save 1 million infant lives. Of course some countries don’t have formula – don’t have WIC to fall back on for formula, and there is just no other way to feed your infant.

In the United States, NOT breastfeeding exclusively to that goal of six months has shown to cost over $13 billion and 911 lives because breast milk reduces risk of infections, type 1 and 2 diabetes, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, obesity, allergies and asthma. I am not sure if that study included the benefits to the tiniest babies – the babies in the NICU. These are the babies that contribute the most to the Infant Mortality Rate. These babies in the NICU are prone to infections, line sepsis, and NEC (Necrotizing Enterocolitis). Breast milk has over 14 bioactive components that fight infection, provide the baby’s internal “microbiome” and teach the baby’s immune system how to live in the mother’s world of bugs.

For these little preemies, breast milk has also been shown to increase the Mental Development Index, Psychomotor Development Index, and Behavior Rating Scale which means better brains and better developmental outcomes! There are several studies showing breast milk reduces rehospitalization rates. Breastfeeding improves cognitive outcomes of preterm and term infants, even when adjusted for family socioeconomic status and educational attainment. There is a 30% obesity reduction in babies breastfed for nine months. Breastfed infants are seven times more likely to survive a natural disaster. Breast milk is nothing short of a miracle substance, probably the 2nd most amazing human liquid next to blood.

We must improve breastfeeding rates by teaching our girls and boys what breasts are for, teaching our dads and grandmas and great grandmas about their important support of breastfeeding.   We need OB’s and Gynecologists to plant the “seed” – the idea.  We need pediatricians who can assess and assist with breastfeeding – helping the seed to grow.   We need more lactation consultants available to Moms after discharge from the hospital. We need hospitals in Memphis that are “baby friendly.”

We have the TN Breastfeeding Hotline 24/7 (1-855-4BF-MOMS or 1-855-423-6667), and the Affordable Care Act has made the provision of breast pumps by insurance a norm.   Thankfully, TN law supports the rights of moms to breastfeed in public and to pump when back to work, in a place that is not a bathroom, and maternity leave policies are improving. St. Jude now offers six weeks paid maternity leave.  England gives eight months paid maternity leave, and Australia gives six months fully paid and 12 months half pay maternity leave. The US ranks 28th in Infant Mortality in the world according to 2010 CDC data.

Hmmm – things to think about on our journey to reducing Infant Mortality!

Breastfeeding is Good for Babies

Breastfeeding is good for babies, and helps prevent infant deaths

David Sweat, MPH

Chief of Epidemiology and Infectious Disease Control

Shelby County Health Department

breastfeeding graph

In Epidemiology, we study patterns of disease and health in populations, and we try to answer questions about what causes the patterns in the first place. Who gets diseases? Who lives longer, and who dies too young? Why do the patterns and trends of health in a given place look the way they do?

Between 2007-2013, overall infant mortality rates in Shelby County have declined, meaning that fewer babies are dying and more of our infants born here are living past their first birthday. This is wonderful news. Today, infant mortality rates in Shelby County TN are the lowest that they have ever been. It’s also good to see that the populations with the worst outcomes in 2004 are the ones that have seen the most improvement in the past ten years.

im graph

As the Shelby County Health Department Office of Epidemiology has looked at the data, one of the biggest questions we have tried to answer is “Why are the rates going down? What is it that is going right?” There is no one single answer that explains why more babies are living and fewer babies are dying, but one thing we do know is that as breastfeeding has increased, outcomes have improved. The more women who breastfeed their babies, and the longer they are breastfed, babies live longer and are healthier.

Numerous health studies have demonstrated that breastfed babies are healthier and live longer than babies who were never breastfed. Breastfeeding is known to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), reduce the number of hospital admissions, reduce the number of ear infections a baby has, and reduce the number of colds and other respiratory diseases a baby gets. Simply stated, babies who are breastfed get sick less often and they are better able to fight off infections that could be life-threatening. And the good news is, more and more women in Shelby County are breastfeeding their babies.

Breastfed babies not only are more likely to survive infancy, but they also have been shown to go on to be healthier for their entire lives. Children and adults who were breastfed as babies have a 30% lower risk of developing Type I Diabetes, a 40% lower risk of developing Type II Diabetes, and show a 30% lower risk of obesity as teenagers and adults. Breastfed babies also have a lower risk of developing asthma later in life. The US Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding says that breastfeeding is the single most important thing a woman can do to protect her baby’s health and also her own health. Women who breastfeed also show health improvements for themselves, such as lower risk of breast cancer, lower rates of rheumatoid arthritis, lower risk of high blood pressure, less obesity, quicker returns to their pre-pregnancy weights, lower risk of postpartum depression, and lower risk of diabetes and heart disease when compared with women who did not breastfeed their infants.

Between 2007-2013 breastfeeding rates in Shelby County increased from about 55% of mothers reporting they started breastfeeding their babies to 70% of mothers reporting breastfeeding. And all the health benefits that come from breastfeeding help explain why more of our babies are living and fewer babies are dying before they are one year old.

The Importance of Birth Spacing

A Step Ahead Foundation

It is a tragedy every time a baby dies, and Shelby County has a tragically high rate of infant mortality. However, Healthy Shelby and the Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative, with the partnership of many community organizations, have already helped to lower that rate. One way to decrease this rate is to space pregnancies at least 18 months to 24 months.

Birth intervals of less than 18 months are significantly associated with babies who are small-for-gestational-age, premature, or do not live to see their first birthday. According to the March of Dimes, more than 50% of infant mortality is due to VLBW (very low birth weight). For this reason, doctors recommend women wait at least 18 to 24 months between pregnancies, both for the mom’s health to allow her body to recover and for the health of future babies.

A Step Ahead Foundation provides the most effective birth control methods free of charge to any woman in Shelby County, thus helping her space her babies safely and effectively. A Step Ahead Foundation (ASAF) works with 19 clinics in the Memphis area, including Shelby County Health Department clinics, and provides each woman with a free well-woman exam, STI test, and the birth control method of her choice. The methods offered are the Paragard IUD, Mirena IUD, and the Nexplanon implant. IUDs are the most popular form of birth control female health providers choose for themselves and all three methods are safe to use while breastfeeding. To make an appointment, call (901) 320-STEP(7837) or visit www.astepaheadfoundation.org for more information.

Great News! There’s an App for That!

Sherry Bates


Sherry Bates, B.S., MBA

Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative Coordinator

Shelby County Health Department

How convenient would it be to have information right at your fingertips?!  In an effort to join the ever-growing world of technology, The Shelby County Health Department created the FREE B4BabyLife mobile app to encourage healthy pregnancies and healthy families as well as to help prevent infant mortality.

This app is a great resource for information on infant mortality reduction topics, including what to expect before, during and after pregnancy. Once inside B4BabyLife, you will find information about the importance of breastfeeding, early prenatal care, exercise, family planning, health insurance coverage, healthy homes, injury prevention, newborn screenings, nutrition, parenting classes, pre-term labor, postpartum depression, safe sleep practices, tobacco cessation, well-child exams, WIC and many other topics.

B4BabyLife also provides hours and locations of all public health clinics in Shelby County.

The B4BabyLife mobile app is FREE for both Android and iPhone users. To get B4BabyLife, simply go to your app store on your device and type in “B4BabyLife.”

Tell your co-workers. Tell your friends. Tell your family members. Are you a nurse or physician? Be sure to tell your patients.

Download the FREE B4BabyLife mobile app today!