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Advancing health equity in breastfeeding

By Christina Sauer, vice president of marketing, at-Home Solutions
(including Edgepark business)

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a time dedicated to advancing advocacy and promotion of breastfeeding and its benefits for babies and mothers; and the week of August 25–31 is Black Breastfeeding Week, created specifically to address racial disparities in breastfeeding rates. This month is particularly meaningful for those of us at Edgepark, a business within Cardinal Health, where our mission is to support new and expecting mothers through their breastfeeding journey.

Of course, we recognize not all mothers choose to breastfeed or have the option due to health issues of their own or their babies. But, for those who are able and choose to do so, breastfeeding provides a variety of health benefits for both mother and baby, including unique nutrients that help protect a child’s developing immune system, according to the American Association of Pediatrics. Additionally, babies who are breastfed have less risk of asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, severe lower respiratory disease, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The benefits are so significant that babies who have been breastfed only a short time have better long-term health outcomes. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding exclusively until the baby is about six months old.

For the mother, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. 

Because of the many health benefits, all expectant mothers should have access to adequate information and support, so they can make an informed choice about whether to breastfeed.

And all mothers need support, both before and after the birth of their baby. In a survey conducted last year by Lansinoh, a baby supply company, moms reported needing increased prenatal education to feel more confident to breastfeed as new mothers. And, according to a recent study conducted by Philips, the health technology company, about two-thirds of mothers around the globe said they don’t believe breastfeeding in public seems “normal”; 33% of U.S. mothers said they would be more likely to breastfeed in public if they had support from others.

Addressing racial disparities
The United States lags behind most developed countries in breastfeeding rates, which are lowest among Black and African American mothers. Data published last year by the CDC show that about 85% of white women in the U.S. have breastfed, versus 74% of Black and African American women, who often face systemic barriers that make it more difficult to choose to breastfeed.

According to the journal of Breastfeeding Medicine, Black and African American women are “disproportionately more likely to experience the workplace as unsupportive of breastfeeding,”  and return to work, on average, at just eight weeks after giving birth – earlier than their white counterparts. Black and African American women are also more likely to work jobs that do not offer paid time off or mandated maternity leave, and/or have to work more than one job, making it nearly impossible to accommodate breastfeeding. More than any other diverse group, they tend to lack access to professional breastfeeding resources and access to equitable healthcare. In addition, according to a study by Chapman University, Black and African American babies are nine times more likely than white babies to be introduced to formula in the hospital.  

Finally, and critical to note, breastfeeding advocacy historically has been led by and geared toward mostly white women, which would correlate to the racial disparities among breastfeeding mothers. Fortunately, there are now multiple organizations created specifically to promote breastfeeding among and provide access to Black and African American mothers, including Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association, Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE), the African American Breastfeeding Network and others.

How Edgepark supports mothers who choose to breastfeed
Edgepark is a trusted resource and leading supplier of breast pumps and accessories for breastfeeding mothers. We offer a wide variety of top breast pump brands at no cost through insurance to service moms’ personal lifestyle needs. A helpful resource, our detailed product guide outlines key considerations when choosing a pump; compares features like size, battery life, and suction for all top brands; and provides detailed instructions when mom is ready to order through insurance.

Edgepark contracts with more than 1,400 insurance plans and manages all of the paperwork between a mother’s insurance and her healthcare provider. This makes it easy for a mother to order a breast pump any time during pregnancy: She simply places her order with us, and we take care of everything from there. Expecting moms can easily learn what pumps are covered by their insurance by visiting our website or speaking to a member of our team.

More than ever before, we are focused on supporting mothers-to-be and new moms. We offer educational resources, including expert breastfeeding advice through our Edgepark healthinsights blog, and we’re training our customer support team to answer a broad range of breastfeeding-related questions.

In short, we’re helping to give peace of mind to moms and their families before and after the birth of their babies. Breastfeeding can seem overwhelming; a lack of support during such an important time can impact whether and how long a mother chooses to breastfeed. 

Frankly, I wish I’d known about Edgepark nine years ago when I became pregnant with my son. I had little knowledge about breastfeeding at the time; I didn’t even realize that my insurance covered the cost of a breast pump. I wanted to breastfeed, but when my son was born, I found breastfeeding incredibly difficult, as many moms do. Because I didn’t have adequate support, I gave up after about eight weeks.

Many mothers struggle to reach their breastfeeding goals, as I did. In fact, 60% do not breastfeed as long as they intended to, according to the CDC. Though breastfeeding seems like a simple and natural thing to do, it certainly wasn’t for me, and it isn’t for many new mothers. It requires practice, patience, and time. Some mothers encounter lactation issues, like a delay in their milk coming in. Others may experience nipple pain or have a baby with difficulty latching.

At Edgepark, we know that breastfeeding is a deeply personal choice that requires significant time and energy. We aim to celebrate that choice and support mothers throughout their journey with all their breast pump needs and beyond. We’re proud to raise awareness, allyship and education, especially during this important time of year, for moms and families navigating the breastfeeding journey.

Christina Sauer is vice president, marketing, of Cardinal Health at-Home Solutions, a market-leading medical supplies provider serving people with chronic and serious health condition in the U.S. She joined Cardinal Health in 2008 through our EMERGE program, initially supervising warehouse distribution teams. in 2017, she joined at-Home solutions as vice president. In her current role, she oversees the marketing organization, which includes portfolio strategy and management, digital and channel marketing, sourcing, supplier relations, innovation and channel partner at-Home products teams.

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