UIC to lead breastfeeding efforts


Will coordinate local aspects of national campaign :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

ad courtesy of the Ad Council Posters like this will explain the benefits of breastfeeding.

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The University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago has been chosen to coordinate local and regionalaspects of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign.

One of only 18 community demonstration project sites chosen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the only site in Illinois, UIC will work with local media to disseminate the campaign's "Babies Were Born to Be Breastfed" public service announcements, developed for the federal government by the Ad Council. More importantly, the hospital will serve as a clearinghouse for breastfeeding information.

"We're not working in a vacuum," says Sue Aberman, the board-certified lactation consultant spearheading UIC's efforts. "This campaign has a bigger scope than just our hospital-we're putting women who have questions in contact with the appropriate agency."

Women and families can call UIC's hotline, (866) 600-CARE, for answers to breastfeeding questions and concerns. Lactation consultants will connect callers with local support networks, including Illinois coordinators for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (or WIC), La Leche League peer counselors, the Metropolitan Illinois Lactation Consultants and the Chicago Breastfeeding Task Force. The number will appear on posters and localized versions of the announcements.

Aberman hopes the campaign will increase Illinois' woefully low breastfeeding rates. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 31.3 percent of Chicago mothers breastfed their infants for at least six months. The rate is significantly lower than the government's targeted 50 percent rate.

Aberman also hopes the campaign will raise general awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding. Targeted specifically toward low-income, minority and urban populations-the CDC reported an abysmal six-month rate of only 23.9 percent among African-American mothers and 28.5 percent among WIC participants-the national campaign emphasizes the risks associated with choosing not to breastfed, including higher incidents of ear infections, respiratory infections and even childhood obesity.

Aberman anticipates the ads will begin airing in Chicago in the next couple of months.

The hospital already has a respected lactation service that serves a diverse population of young, first-time mothers. The government grant has allowed Aberman to increase the hospital's staff education and expand its breast pump rental service.

Now that the campaign's public service announcements have caught up with local efforts, Aberman believes more and more women will seek UIC's services. "We hope so many people will call the hotline that we'll not be able to provide all the help ourselves," she says. Eryn McGary


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