Northeastern Minnesota is a leader in the state – and nation – when it comes to breastfeeding. The seven counties in northeastern Minnesota – Koochiching, Itasca, Aitkin, Cook, Lake, St. Louis and Carlton – came out significantly on top in a preliminary report from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
Babies who are fed only breast milk during their hospital stay are more likely to continue breastfeeding throughout their early lives – and get the benefits that come with breastfeeding, like a stronger immune system. Sticking to only breastfeeding for the first six months is so important that it’s a goal of the World Health Organization and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
According to MDH, just 15% of Northeastern Minnesota WIC infants in the report were fed formula in the hospital. Other areas in the state ranged from 33% to 56%. These numbers show the success of breastfeeding advocacy in the region.
Breastfeeding has been supported in Northeastern Minnesota through the Statewide Health Improvement Program and other grants since 2009. Efforts have made hospitals, clinics and workplaces more friendly for breastfeeding moms, and created environments where breastfeeding is the easy choice.
Healthy Northland’s breastfeeding contractor is currently working with nine hospitals and five public health agencies on initiatives like helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, not supplementing babies with formula or water unless medically necessary and showing new mothers how to breastfeed.