Good health starts before birth. The health of Mississippi’s infants is critical to the long-term health of the state. Unfortunately, Mississippi consistently ranks among the bottom of U.S. states when it comes to indicators of infant health such as infant mortality and low birth weight. In order to protect the future of our state and give each of our residents the best possible start to life, the UpRoot partners decided to focus on improving infant health as a top priority.
How We’ll Measure Success
While significant changes in the percentage of Mississippi infants who are breastfed will take time, we will measure our success by tracking:
- The percentage of infants who were ever breastfed,
- The percentage of infants breastfed at 6 months.
- Survey respondents statewide said that the most important factor for a healthy community is if it is a good place to raise children.
- In 2012, Mississippi’s infant mortality rate was 8.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. This is much higher than the rate for the U.S. of 5.98 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
One important way to improve the health of infants is through breastfeeding. Breast milk contains antibodies that can help protect infants from a variety of illnesses. Among breastfed babies, conditions such as ear infections, obesity, asthma, and diarrhea are less common. Mothers who have breastfed have a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants are breastfed for at least 12 months. If 90 percent of mothers breastfed exclusively for six months, over 900 deaths among infants could be prevented yearly.
You can help promote breastfeeding in different ways depending on who you are. The general public can work to destigmatize breastfeeding by giving women who choose to breastfeed privacy and respect.
If you are a medical professional or hospital administrator, try to promote breastfeeding as a healthy and natural way to provide the nutrition newborns need. Hospitals can promote breastfeeding by pursuing “Baby Friendly” designation. If you are an employer, you can promote breastfeeding by providing women who are lactating with reasonable breaks and a safe, private space to breastfeed or pump breast milk.