Breastfeeding is Best: COVID-19 Doesn't Change the Message

SAVANNAH, Ga. - June 11, 2020 - PRLog -- Breastfeeding remains the healthiest way to feed a baby, even during the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, and locally, the REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approach to Community Health) team of Project HOPE (Healthy Opportunities Powering Equity), continues to urge mothers to choose this method. The program, which is supported by the YMCA of Coastal Georgia and Healthy Savannah through grant funding awarded through the Centers for Disease Control's REACH program, is dedicated to closing the gap in health disparities among various populations in Savannah and Chatham County, and many of those disparities are rooted in nutrition.

Major health organizations – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and professional associations representing obstetricians and pediatricians – continue to call breastfeeding the best option, largely even in cases where there is a threat or even confirmation of COVID-19 infection.

Mothers who are concerned about exposure to COVID could pump milk for someone else to feed their babies, according to groups like the CDC, but great care must be taken to sanitize pumping equipment and observe other health measures.

Shawntay Gadson is a lactation consultant who works in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Memorial and with Project Hope and the REACH team's various programs. She has first-hand experience in the health value of breastfeeding. She pointed out that she and other lactation professionals are making sure they keep up with the latest CDC guidelines since the COVID situation has proven to be fluid and rapidly changing.

Local breastfeeding advocate Holly McSpadden, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), who is the senior lactation consultant at Memorial Health University Medical Center, says current medical thinking is that breast milk remains the best option for babies and keeping mother and baby together while directly breastfeeding is preferable whenever medically possible.

The REACH team, through Project Hope, supports a variety of programs to make healthy food available to low-wealth communities, including a new Photovoice Project being developed by Nandi Marshall, DrPH, of the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University. She uses a combination of photography and storytelling to empower those taking part to share their experiences with breastfeeding. Gadsen is also working with this effort in recruiting new moms as participants. This effort was inspired by the 2007 Breastfeeding Report Card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicates African Americans have the lowest rates of initiating breastfeeding (60 percent) and continuing it at six months (28 percent) and 12 months (13 percent) compared to all other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

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