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August Marks National Breastfeeding Month

August 4, 2014- Tom Joseph
HARRISBURG - In Pennsylvania and across the nation, August marks the start of National Breastfeeding Month. It has supporters touting the benefits of mother's milk, often called "nature's perfect baby food."

Marian Tompson, who founded the organization La Leche League, says mothers who are able to breastfeed can reduce their risk for diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and some forms of cancer. For the baby, she says, there are a variety of health benefits as well, including as a stronger immune system, better motor development and fewer allergies.

"There have been thousands of studies during the past 50 years that confirm babies are healthier when they're breastfed," says Tompson. "And it makes sense, because they're getting the food that was meant for their growth and development."

While more mothers are starting with breastfeeding and nursing infants longer on average, Tompson believes there are still too many who quit in those first weeks or months, often because they must return to work and are separated from their babies.

"It'll be a win-win situation for everybody when mothers who breastfeed their babies are supported, and being helped to do so - both in employment, in school, anyplace where a mother who is breastfeeding has to be, and probably has to have her baby," Tompson says.

She adds one initiative already having a positive impact is the growing number of U.S. hospitals that are gaining certification as breastfeeding-friendly. There are now nearly 200 of them across 44 states.

When La Lache League was created in the 1950s, Tompson recalls, fewer than one in five mothers started out breastfeeding their babies. Today that figure is 79 percent.

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