Breastfeeding Is Best
Local Mom is National Advocate for Breastfeeding
Auusta mom Danielle Rigg is co-founder and chief operating officer of Best for Babes wich promotes breast feeding awareness.
Photo Courtesy of Best For Babes Foundations
For years, pregnant women have been told “breast is best” for feeding their newborn children. Statistics tout breastfeeding as the best source of nutrition for their infants and provides lasting health benefits for the baby as well as the mother. And most women want to do what is best for their children.
Many American women, however, aren’t able to reach their breastfeeding goals and the culture is somewhat to blame, according to breastfeeding advocate Danielle Rigg, co-founder and chief operating officer of the Best for Babes Foundation. “Most moms want to do it, but they are prevented from doing it,” she says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General back her claim and assert that there are many obstacles to a woman breastfeeding her children. The U.S. Surgeon General released a “call to action” in 2011 to help breastfeeding mothers.
These obstacles begin immediately after the birth of a child, according to the CDC’s 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card, which states less than five percent of babies are born in what is deemed as “baby-friendly” hospitals. Baby-friendly is a “global designation that indicates best practices in maternity care to support breastfeeding mothers. The hospital period is critical for mothers and babies to learn to breastfeed, and hospitals need to do more to support them,” according to the report at http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm.
A map indicates that zero percent of Georgia and South Carolina babies are born at baby-friendly hospitals.
“Birth facility policies and practices significantly impact whether a woman chooses to start breastfeeding and how long she continues to breastfeed. Several specific policies and practices, in combination, determine how much overall support for breastfeeding a woman birthing in a given facility is likely to receive and how likely her baby is to receive formula in the first two days,” according to the Web site.
Rigg likens the practice of giving formula samples to mothers while they are still in the hospital to setting up a smorgasbord of pastries at a Weight Watchers meeting. She calls practices such as these “booby traps,” and these only scratch the surface. The workplace and public opinion also shape a woman’s success.
References to breastfeeding hurdles are found in popular culture. “You don’t realize how horrible something is until it happens to you personally,” states Reese Witherspoon’s character, Elle Woods, in the 2003 movie Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde, to which, one of her friends says, “Like breastfeeding.”
And, recent headlines have shown negative feelings some people have about breastfeeding in public. In December, NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne posted derogatory remarks on Twitter about a woman breastfeeding at the grocery store. It sparked a backlash including a “nurse-in” at Target stores across the country the same month.
Illuminating the Positive Side of Breastfeeding
Helping women navigate the booby traps as well as bringing positive awareness to breastfeeding are among the goals of Best for Babes, www.bestforbabes.com.
Rigg discovered these booby traps when she had her own children, Hannah, 8, and Noah, 11. She was an attorney in New York City when she became pregnant with her son and she knew she wanted to breastfeed him. “It resonated deeply with me,” she says. “But I was horribly set up to fail.”
Rigg says she felt unprepared and didn’t receive the support she needed from the hospital or her son’s pediatrician. If she hadn’t received the support she needed, she knew others were going through the same thing. “I turned it into a personal mission,” says Rigg, who left law behind her and became a certified lactation consultant in New Jersey, operating a private practice and doing in-home classes.
She has since moved to the Augusta area. Her husband, Dr. Jack Rigg, is the Traumatic Brain Injury Program director at the Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center Neuroscience and Rehabilitation Center at Fort Gordon.
Despite the traps she encountered, Rigg was able to nurse both of her children for 22 months. “I got past the hurdles. I was going to do it no matter what,” she says.
Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers, too
While the work of the individual lactation consultant and other organizations that support women who breastfeed is vital, Rigg says she knew there was more that could be done. She teamed up with friend Bettina Lauf Forbes to create Best For Babes. With others working one-on-one with moms to promote their success, Best For Babes is endeavoring to work with society to change perceptions.
Right before its founding, however, Rigg discovered she had bilateral breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy. Rigg says her bout with cancer made her even more determined to push the health benefits associated with breastfeeding. She references a 2002 study in the Lancet which indicated a woman’s risk of breast cancer decreased 4.3 percent for each year she breastfed her children. This was cumulative so the more children a woman nursed, the greater the benefit.
She also references a 2009 study which showed women with a family history of breast cancer had a 50 percent reduction in their chance of getting post-menopausal breast cancer if they had breastfed.
One way to influence public perception is to put a celebrity face with a cause or product. Rigg noted Nike’s success using spokesperson Michael Jordan. In 1984, Jordan signed with Nike. As part of the deal, he received his own brand of shoes. According to an article in the September 2011 issue of Forbes magazine, Jordan’s brand now accounts for 71 percent of the basketball shoe market and has annual revenues of more than $1 billion.
At the Best for Babes Web site, several famous moms have given their endorsement for breastfeeding including actresses Jenna Elfman, Kaitlin Olson of Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Gossip Girls’ Kelly Rutherford. Also, actress Marilu Henner is on the organization’s founding board of directors.
While Rigg and Forbes are hitting the national level, they are also working at the local level to promote awareness of these traps through the Team Best for Babes, which is a run, walk or stroll.
The event is currently being planned in 11 cities across the nation. In April, there are events in Louisiana, Illinois and Kansas. Rigg says there is room for growth. More teams can be formed. Visit www.bestforbabes.com for more information.
Breastfeeding By the Numbers
In 2011, the U.S. Surgeon General issued “A Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding,” http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/breastfeeding/factsheet.html.
The report states that breastfeeding health benefits include:
• Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia.
• Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma.
• Children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese.
• Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
• Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers .
Also, economic benefits include:
• Families who follow optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200–$1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone.
• A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs.
• For both employers and employees, better infant health means fewer health insurance claims, less employee time off to care for sick children and higher productivity.
Charmain Z. Brackett is an Augusta freelance writer and mother of three.