Merkley, Duckworth Lead Senate Resolution Marking World Breastfeeding Week, Designating August Breastfeeding Month

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced a Senate resolution designating the first week in August as “World Breastfeeding Week,” and the month of August as “National Breastfeeding Month.”

Merkley and Duckworth are joined on the resolution by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

The scientific community consistently reaffirms that breastfeeding is valuable for the health of women and children, and helps build a newborn’s foundation for life-long health and wellness, yet many women face significant barriers in community, health care, and employment settings that make it difficult for them to breastfeed.

In addition to honoring World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, the resolution recognizes substantial racial disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration, and calls for “support[ing] policies and funding to ensure that all mothers who choose to breastfeed can access a full range of appropriate support from child care institutions, health care insurers, employers, researchers, and government entities.”

“Every new mother—regardless of income, where she works, or where she lives—who wants to breastfeed should have the support and resources they need to make it possible,” Merkley said. “I’m urging my colleagues in Congress to join me in raising awareness and support for breastfeeding, so we can overcome the stigma and barriers that still stand in the way.”

“Breastfeeding plays a critical role in a child’s development and reducing the risk of life-threatening diseases for children and mothers alike,” Duckworth said. “That’s why I’m proud to work with Senator Merkley to reintroduce this important resolution to help raise awareness about the life-long health benefits of breastfeeding.”

The Merkley-Duckworth resolution has received widespread support, including from the American Academy of Pediatrics, First Focus Campaign for Children, MomsRising, National WIC Association, and the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee.

The full text of the resolution is available here and below.

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Whereas the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends

that a baby be fed exclusively through breastfeeding for

about the first 6 months after the birth of the baby, followed

by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods

are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1

year or longer as mutually desired by the mother and infant;

Whereas the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has

designated the first week of August as ‘‘World

Breastfeeding Week’’, and the United States

Breastfeeding Committee has designated August as ‘‘National

Breastfeeding Month’’

Whereas National Breastfeeding Month focuses on how data

and measurement can be used to build and reinforce the

connections between breastfeeding and a broad spectrum

of other health topics and initiatives;

Whereas World Breastfeeding Week and National

Breastfeeding Month provide important opportunities to

address barriers to breastfeeding faced by families across

the United States and around the world;

Whereas, according to the 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card

of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 81.1

percent of mothers in the United States, or about 4 out

of every 5 mothers in the United States, start

breastfeeding their babies at the birth of their baby;

Whereas by the end of 6 months after the birth of a baby,

breastfeeding rates for mothers in the United States fall

to 51.8 percent, and only 22.3 percent of babies in the

United States are exclusively breastfed at 6 months of

age;

Whereas 2 of every 3 mothers report that they are unable to

reach their personal breastfeeding goals;

Whereas there are substantial racial and ethnic disparities in

breastfeeding initiation and duration;

Whereas, in 2014, 85.7 percent of non-Hispanic White infants

were breastfed, as compared to—

(1) 68.0 percent of non-Hispanic Black infants; and

(2) 79.5 percent of non-Hispanic American Indian

and Alaska Native infants;

Whereas the Healthy People 2020 objectives for

breastfeeding are that—

(1) 82 percent of babies are breastfed at some time;

(2) 61 percent of babies continue to be breastfed at

6 months; and

(3) 34 percent of babies continue to be breastfed at

1 year;

Whereas breastfeeding is a proven primary prevention strategy

that builds a foundation for life-long health and

wellness;

Whereas the evidence of the value of breastfeeding to the

health of women and children is scientific, solid, and continually

reaffirmed by new research;

Whereas a 2016 study of maternal and pediatric health outcomes

and associated costs based on 2012 breastfeeding

rates indicates that if 90 percent of infants were

breastfed according to medical recommendations, 3,340

deaths, $3,000,000,000 in medical costs, and

$14,200,000,000 in costs relating to premature death

would be prevented annually;

Whereas the great majority of pregnant women and new

mothers want to breastfeed but face significant barriers

in community, health care, and employment settings; and

Whereas a 2016 study found that universal breastfeeding—

(1) could prevent 800,000 child deaths per year

across the world; and

(2) is an invaluable tool for mothers to provide essential

nutrients to protect newborns against infectious

diseases in developing countries: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—

(1) designates the first week of August 2019 as

‘‘World Breastfeeding Week’’;

(2) designates August 2019 as ‘‘National

Breastfeeding Month’’;

(3) supports the goals of World Breastfeeding

Week and National Breastfeeding Month; and

(4) supports policies and funding to ensure that

all mothers who choose to breastfeed can access a

full range of appropriate support from child care

and health care institutions, health care insurers,

employers, researchers, and government entities.