Childhood obesity rates have more than doubled in the past 30 years, while adolescent obesity has quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The epidemic has hit communities with large minority populations especially hard.
That’s why in early 2016, Advocate Trinity Hospital – located on Chicago’s south side – sought and became the first hospital in Chicago to be certified as Baby-Friendly. The certification is a designation from the World Health Organization recognizing the highest level of support for breastfeeding mothers and babies. It represents a step in the right direction towards addressing the childhood obesity epidemic.
Providing infants with human milk gives them the most complete nutrition possible because it provides the best mix of nutrients for babies to thrive.
“This may be the first generation that has a shorter life span because we’re seeing obesity in children and teens,” says Dr. Luther Gaston, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “Breastfeeding can greatly help reduce obesity, and that is the first step toward tackling the issue.”
Considering in 2012, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, confronting this issue has become a major task for physicians and patients alike. “Our goal is to promote breastfeeding in 100 percent of our patients that walk through the door,” says Michele Rowe, an obstetrics nurse at Advocate Trinity Hospital. “Baby-Friendly helps to attack obesity at the very early stages of a newborns life.”
In addition to fighting obesity, research has shown many benefits to breastfeeding, including children having fewer and less serious illnesses than those who never received breast milk and a reduced risk of SIDS, childhood cancers, pneumonia and diabetes.
Baby-Friendly is a global program which was launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund in 1991. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding.