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A young African American woman breastfeeding.

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s breastfeeding friendly child care certification program is expanding rapidly. Christina LeVert, the Extension professional guiding the initiative, said 31 child care providers from across the state have already completed the process.

“Centers and homes providers in urban areas such as Mobile and Birmingham as well as some in smaller cities and even rural areas can now tell mothers that their programs are certified breastfeeding friendly,” LeVert said.  “It shows that the program supports breastfeeding families.”

These centers and providers serve more than 1,000 children under age five.

“Children will see books with images of nursing mammals, posters of mothers breastfeeding and moms encouraged to nurse on site,” LeVert said. “This will also help normalize breastfeeding in a state with astonishingly poor breastfeeding rates.”

She said that more child care providers are currently working to complete the certification process as well.

“Our agents are working very hard to make sure all interested child care providers are able to obtain the certification,” LeVert said. “Certifying 31 providers in 10 months is a tremendous start, and we are excited to see how many we can add going forward in 2020.”

Program Is Partner Effort

Barbara Struempler, Extension assistant director for human sciences, said Extension is partnering with the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Partnership for Children and also the Alabama Breastfeeding Committee in the breastfeeding friendly child care certification program.

“Alabama Extension manages the initiative with agents providing training and then conducting site visits,” Struempler said. “Agents will work with childcare providers, both center and home based, to help them become certified as breastfeeding friendly.”

Following the training, interested providers must implement the 10 Steps to Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly. Participants receive a toolkit that guides them through the process and also provides resources and tips for each step.

After completing the 10 steps, providers will submit a site visit application, and then an Extension regional agent will conduct the visit to determine if the providers are successfully following all 10 steps. Certification will be good for two years.

“The longer the breastfeeding relationship continues, the greater the benefit to both the mother and the baby,” LeVert said.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Mothers who breastfed have a decreased risk of:

  • Developing Breast Cancer
  • Developing Ovarian Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Developing Type 2 Diabetes

Infants that are breastfed have decreased risk of:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Asthma
  • Developing Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gastro-intestinal Issues
  • Obesity
  • Ear and Respiratory Infections

“Alabama ranks in the bottom three in the United States for breastfeeding initiation and continuation,” Struempler said. “This certification program can be important motivation for breastfeeding moms—to know that their child’s care provider understands how to support the breastfeeding relationship of mother and child.”

Struempler said it can also be the catalyst for change—helping Alabama mothers and babies be healthier.

“It is a continuation of Extension’s broad efforts to reduce infant mortality as well as reduce the high rates of diabetes and obesity in the state,” Struempler said.

More Information

For more information, contact your county Extension office or Christina LeVert at Christina.Levert@aces.edu.

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