News Release

Health Department of Northwest Michigan
serving Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego Counties
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(August 3, 2009) Breastfeeding and immunizations are two of the best ways parents can help their babies stay healthy, according to public health nurses at the local health department.

"We encourage mothers to breastfeed and immunize their babies," said Patricia Fralick, Director of Family & Community Health Services for the Health Department of Northwest Michigan. "And it’s important that moms and dads get their immunizations too, especially flu shots. Babies under six months old cannot get flu shots. So when family members are immunized against seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses, that helps babies from getting the flu." Flu can cause serious illness in babies, she said.

The Health Department will be offering flu shots in the fall and will announce times, dates, and locations soon. To support new moms who breastfeed, Health Department staff are working together with MSU Extension offices and local hospitals in Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. A breastfeeding peer support counselor is on-call 24 hours a day in each of the four counties to help and support new breastfeeding moms by answering questions and providing encouragement.

In recognition of World Breastfeeding Month (August), the International Lactation Consultation Association recommends these actions for family and friends to support breastfeeding mothers: Recent studies show that babies who are exclusively breastfed until they are six months old are less likely to develop a range of infectious diseases including ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses, and have fewer hospitalizations. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, some studies suggest babies who are breastfed have lower rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Older children who were breastfed have lower rates of diabetes, certain types of cancer, overweight and obesity, high cholesterol, and asthma.

The Health Department of Northwest Michigan is mandated by the Public Health Code to promote wellness, prevent disease, provide quality healthcare, address health problems of vulnerable populations, and protect the environment for the residents and visitors of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, and Otsego counties. For more information about breastfeeding, contact your health care provider or local Health Department office.