Tennessee’s breastfeeding rate falls below national average, hospitals work to boost numbers

Boosting breastfeeding rates in Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Wednesday marks the end of World Breastfeeding Week, a time dedicated to the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide.

In Tennessee, breastfeeding numbers fall below the national average. Only 82.2 percent of Tennessee infants born in 2016 had ever breastfed, which is below the national estimate of 83.8 percent according to the Tennessee Department of Health.

Christy Brooks is the NICU Manager and lactation consultant at St. Francis Hospital Bartlett. Brooks believes the state’s lower numbers come from lack of education about breastfeeding and support for the mother.

“Most moms make a decision on how they want to feed their baby before they ever get to this point. So it is real important to information available for them,” said Brooks.

In 2018, St. Francis Hospital Bartlett was awarded the Baby-Friendly accreditation. It’s the only hospital in Shelby County to received the recognition that gives mothers the information, confidence, and skills necessary for breastfeeding their babies.

And since working to receive the accreditation, the hospital has increased its exclusive breastfeeding rates, meaning no bottles, from 10 percent to now averaging 45 percent.

“Now the moms who sometimes didn’t even think about breastfeeding, once we talk to them and give them the education they try to breastfeed or they are more interested in breastfeeding,” said Brooks.

New mom Alexandria Libbey decided early on the best option for her babies was to breastfeed them.

“I knew it was the best thing for them and from me doing so much research I learned that my breast milk, my body actually formulates breast milk that is specifically needed for whatever illnesses or ailments they may be going through,” said Libbey.

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