BURLINGTON - City Hall's Contois Auditorium was filled with families Saturday for a celebration of World Breastfeeding Week. The annual event, sponsored by the Vermont Department of Health and the La Leche League of Burlington, drew dozens of parents and children for a sing-along, a baby-food-making demonstration and a rally to support breastfeeding moms.
Last month, Burlington City Councilors defeated a resolution that would have promoted the benefits of breastfeeding, saying it wasn't part of the "core city mission."
Kirsten Berggren, a lactation counselor with the breastfeeding clinic at Fletcher Allen's Lintilhac Birthing Center, disagrees. The Old North End resident staffed an information table Saturday with her young daughter and son.
Breastfeeding dramatically reduces the likelihood that infants will get sick, Berggren points out, so encouraging the practice makes economic sense. "The parents of breastfed babies miss three times less work because their babies aren't sick as much," she notes, adding that breastfeeding thus saves on health-care costs, an estimated $375 per child per year.
The health department advises women to breastfeed for at least a year. But Berggren notes that most Vermont moms who start out breastfeeding are forced to stop after just a few months because they have a difficult time pumping their breasts when they return to work. She recently published Working Without Weaning, a resource book to help working moms through that transition, and manages a website, www.workandpump.com.
Berggren is also collaborating with the health department on a campaign to explain to employers how they can be more breastfeeding-friendly. Suggestions include everything from providing flexible breaks to paying for electric breast pumps for employees.
"I think employers don't realize what a wonderful benefit this is to provide," she says. "We break it down into dollars."