Importance of breast feeding

#FlashbackFriday This was originally published in February 2016

Beth Olson, Extension Professor
Department of Nutritional Sciences
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 265-2108

Beth Olson discusses the benefits and impediments to breast feeding.

3:04 – Total Time

0:14 – Benefits of breast feeding
0:37 – Impediments to breast feeding
1:04 – Adapting to the challenge
1:31 – More mothers breast feed
1:45 – Get prepared beforehand
2:22 – Many resources to help
2:54 – Lead out



Sevie Kenyon: The value of breast feeding, we’re visiting today with Beth Olson, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon. Beth, give us an idea why breast feeding is so important.

Beth Olson: Well breast milk provides the perfect nutrition for a new baby and it changes as the baby grows so it continues to provide the best nutrition. It also protects against various infections and diseases because of the many, many immune factures in breast milk that aren’t available in baby formula.

Sevie Kenyon: Beth, given the benefits, what are some of the impediments to people breast feeding?

Beth Olson: Well one of the impediments to people breast feeding is we aren’t a society really set up to support breast feeding. We hear sometimes in the news that moms who are breast feeding their baby in public still get asked to cover up or to move or to go somewhere else and do that. We also have a lot of working moms and our workplaces aren’t necessarily set up to support those moms to continue breast feeding when they return to work.

Sevie Kenyon: How do people adapt to some of these challenges?

Beth Olson: Moms will develop support groups that help them develop strategies to feel more confident for instance. If moms themselves aren’t very comfortable breast feeding in public, there is a lot of ways that they can do it in a more discrete manner if they choose to that. And there are a lot of resources for businesses to make their workplaces more breast feeding friendly.

Sevie Kenyon: Beth, can you give us a sense of how many mothers breast feed and if it’s a growing thing or a declining thing in this country?

 Beth Olson: Breast feeding rates have steadily increased in the United States over the last, I would say, 30 or 40 years. Now we get about 75% or 80% at least start breast feeding.

Sevie Kenyon: Beth, do you have some tips people could use?

Beth Olson: One of the biggest things is to prepare before the baby is born. So many health systems, hospitals, community education have breast feeding support classes that moms can attend before the baby is born. And then moms should prepare a plan for how she wants to deal with her baby and feeding in the hospital so in that important time when the baby is getting started things are done in a way that help her really succeed to get established breast feeding. If women have problems breast feeding, the health professional that is specifically trained to help is a lactation consultant.

Sevie Kenyon: Beth, maybe you can describe some of the support networks available.

Beth Olson: If a mom is limited in her financial resources, the women, infant, and children program provides breast feeding education. They also sometimes provide a peer counselor so a woman that comes from her community that has breast fed can help her negotiate what goes on in her community. One resource that’s very good is That’s a website which puts together lots of good breast feeding information, but it also has a lot of links which will direct moms to quality breast feeding information.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting today with Beth Olson, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

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