FORT WALTON BEACH — In August, the Florida Department of Health in Okaloosa County is observing World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1-7); Black Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 25-31) and National Breastfeeding Month.

World Breastfeeding Week, an annual observance, is Aug. 1-7. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, a global network of individuals and organizations concerned with the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide, coordinates it.

The annual Black Breastfeeding Week focus for this year is spotlighting the joy of family bonds and perseverance in 2017. Dates are Aug. 25-31.
The initiative is used to decrease high black infant mortality rates; a high rate of diet-related disease; address a disparity in breastfeeding leadership that creates a cultural gap for African-American moms, perpetuating the misconception that black women don’t breastfeed. It also helps promote breast milk as a first food for infants in areas where they may be a lack of healthy food access.

National Breastfeeding Month, also an annual August observance, is an initiative of the United States Breastfeeding Committee.

The DOH-Okaloosa is raising awareness of the importance of breastfeeding in an effort to make Okaloosa County the breastfeeding-friendliest county in Florida.

Benefits of breastfeeding include:

•more sleep.

•close bonding.

•improved health and nutrition.

•healthy weight maintenance.

•fewer illnesses.

•It's free.

"The diverse benefits of breastfeeding translate into hundreds of dollars of savings at the family level and billions of dollars at the national level through decreased hospitalizations and pediatric visits," Dr. Karen A. Chapman, DOH-Okaloosa director, stated in a media release.

"Breastfeeding is simply the best thing you can do to protect your baby’s health, as well as improving the health and well-being of mothers. This is why it is so important that breastfeeding be supported in all aspects of a mother’s life."

Breastfeeding is a priority for the DOH in Okaloosa, with the initiatives listed below.

FLORIDA HEALTHY BABIES is a statewide initiative that also encourages breastfeeding, safe sleep, no smoking and never shake a baby. The Recipe for a Healthy Baby, created by local community partners, provides support and education for the local initiative. For more information, visit:  http://healthystartokawalton.org/.

HEALTHY OKALOOSA WORKSITES employers are taking steps in providing support in their workplace to their breastfeeding employees. Participating employers that have made environmental and policy changes in support of breastfeeding may apply for the Florida Breastfeeding Friendly Employer Award given by the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, Inc.

North Okaloosa Medical Center has also taken strides in supporting new and expecting mothers in making the choice to breastfeed. This past year, NOMC began their journey to earn the Florida Quest for Quality Maternity Care Award through the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, Inc.

Email HealthyOkaloosa5210@flhealth.gov for more information.