Poll: Americans want more support for breast-feeding

More than 60 percent of Americans believe workplaces, hospitals and other public spaces are key to making breast-feeding easier for moms, according to a recent poll by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The survey of 1,300 people found strong support for the idea that everyone — not only mothers — can help ensure that babies get the breast milk they need to thrive.

The results demonstrate broad approval for specific ways communities can bolster nursing.

Sixty-six percent of respondents, for instance, said it would be “very helpful” for workplaces to support breast-feeding mothers by giving them time and space to pump and a place to store breast milk.

“If we truly understand that breast milk is the best first food for new babies — and our polling shows Americans do — then our institutions and communities need to make it easier for all mothers to nurse,” said Dr. Gail Christopher, vice president — program strategy at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“This data proves that, as a nation, we believe whether a woman breast-feeds shouldn’t be dictated by the quality of health care she receives or her work situation,” Christopher said. “That’s an important starting point for shaping policies that foster healthy beginnings for all children.”

The survey’s findings were announced at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s First Food Forum, a gathering of 150 breast-feeding advocates, maternal and child health practitioners, researchers, writers and others from across the United States, held in Atlanta.

The poll additionally found:

71 percent of those polled said it would be “very helpful” to have clean, private spaces in malls, restaurants and other public places where women can go to breast-feed their children.

68 percent “strongly agree” that hospitals should be baby friendly (meaning they provide new moms with the support and encouragement they need to breast-feed).

65 percent said it would be “very helpful” to have education about breast-feeding so everyone is more knowledgeable about the benefits of breast-feeding and more accepting of coworkers and women who breast-feed in public.

These figures suggest public support for many of the 20 strategies to improve breast-feeding rates laid out in the 2011 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breast-feeding.

That report highlights several barriers to breast-feeding at work, including pressure from coworkers and supervisors not to take breaks to express milk and breaks with insufficient time to pump.

The full poll and results are available at www.wkkf.org.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works alongside communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

— W.K. Kellogg Foundation