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Welcome Amy, an ally in breastfeeding promotion

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News from Lake County Public Health

LAKE COUNTY — Pablo resident Amy Stiffarm recently contacted the Lake County Public Health Department to ask if the Breastfeeding Coalition of the Mission Valley would like to partner with her on a project she wanted to embark on as part of her work towards her Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Montana. 

She had, as they say, an offer we couldn’t refuse. 

Many of the LCPH employees are members of the Coalition, which was very active in years past, but over the years changes in agencies’ staff have slowed the re-organizing efforts the Coalition has needed. Enter Amy, and her terrific ideas.

Amy not only plans to get this group active in the community again — she is also doing the legwork needed for us to join the Montana Breastfeeding Coalition, and is working on a new mission statement for the group’s approval. Being a member of the statewide coalition will allow us to share resources and ideas about promoting breastfeeding in Montana, and further our efforts to normalize breastfeeding in society.

According to Amy, breastfeeding has many known health benefits for the growth and development of infants. It has proven to reduce the risks of conditions such as asthma, leukemia, obesity, ear infections, diarrhea, vomiting, lower respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and others.

“Research has also shown that breastfeeding is also beneficial to the mother,” Amy said. “Studies suggest that breastfeeding helps shrink the uterus and stop post-birth bleeding. It also reduces the risks of developing breast and ovarian cancer in the mother.”

Despite the proven benefits, breastfeeding outcomes have yet to reach public health goals and mothers are discontinuing earlier than is recommended by the World Health Organization: exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to six months of age, with continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond. 

The Breastfeeding Coalition of the Mission Valley has been looking for ways to encourage pregnant women to breastfeed and to support breastfeeding mothers, and Amy had an idea that we can really get behind. As part of her initial outreach efforts, she spoke to the organizers of the Elmo Standing Arrow Powwow in mid-July, asking if they would be willing to provide a place for the Coalition to set up a comfy area for breastfeeding moms to nurse their babies. They enthusiastically agreed, and members of the Coalition will be on hand to provide information on lactation and to answer questions anyone might have.

Amy’s idea that women need a place to comfortably breastfeed their babies can and will be expanded. Women need a place like this everywhere, which is being recognized by more and more “baby friendly” businesses. But often this is an issue that people just don’t think about – unless, of course, you are a nursing mother. Part of Amy’s project will be to encourage businesses to think about it creatively, and offer solutions to this dilemma. For more information, you may contact Amy Stiffarm at 406-262-3511.

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