Making the choice to breastfeed

THE FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH in Polk County (DOH-Polk) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recognize August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month. This is a wonderful time of year to promote breastfeeding as a vital health activity and discuss the health benefits breastfeeding provides. Although every woman has their own unique experience in choosing how to feed their baby, many do not realize the tremendous health benefits breastfeeding provides mothers and babies.

One of the most important decisions new families make is new families make is the choice to breastfeed. Evidence is clear that breastfeeding is the most beneficial and natural way to feed an infant. Experts indicate that breastfeeding is best for brain growth and development in babies and contributes to positive, healthy outcomes for mother and baby.

DOH-Polk and WIC support breastfeeding and encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life. Health benefits for mother and baby are greatest if breastfeeding continues until age one.

Breastfeeding is the most low-cost, natural way to feed a baby. A breastfeeding family can save approximately $1,500 per year on formula costs by simply choosing to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is also linked to a decrease in health costs. This includes fewer prescriptions, sick care visits, and hospitalizations. It is estimated that over $13 billion could be saved annually in the United States if women breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life.

Currently, 83 percent of WIC mothers in Polk County have tried to breastfeed. This is above the statewide average of 80 percent. Polk County’s WIC program provides many breastfeeding resources to its clients including face-to-face breastfeeding support with trained staff and counselors. WIC staff help women address their barriers to breastfeeding and assist them in preventing and managing breastfeeding problems.


• Have a better weight status than moms that use artificial baby milk.

• Have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression.

• Experience an enhanced special bond through the skin-to-skin contact that breastfeeding involves.


• Are one-third less likely to experience Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

• Are less likely to become overweight.

• Are sick less often.

• Have a lower risk for developing health complications or diseases, such as respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, asthma, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.

For information about the WIC services offered at the Florida Department of Health in Polk County, please call (863) 519-7900 or visit For more information about WIC and breastfeeding resources, visit


article by by JOY JACKSON, MD

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Joy Jackson, an internal medicine physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk). For more information about FDOH-Polk, visit

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