World Breastfeeding Week highlights benefits to babies and moms

World Breastfeeding Week, a global initiative to improve the health of babies, starts today.

Experts say it is important to encourage women to breastfeed because it not only helps babies get the right mix of nutrients from mother's milk, but they also get antibodies that can help protect them while their immune systems are developing. 

According to the CDC, breastfed babies have a lower risk of ear, respiratory, and gut infections. Breastmilk also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and allergic diseases like asthma and eczema, plus the future development of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease. 

There's also a benefit for moms, helping them maintain a better weight, and decreasing their own risk of type-2 diabetes, postpartum depression, and breast and ovarian cancer.  

The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force offers lots of help, and WIC can even provide pumps for some who qualify. 

Hillsborough County public health nutritionist Danielle Jones says getting started is as simple as calling a hotline.

"Moms should start contacting us as early on in the pregnancy as possible, the earlier the better," she offered. "We want to try to help prepare them with the tools that they need. We offer great breastfeeding support through WIC, we have breastfeeding peer counselors that are amazing, moms that breastfed themselves that can share similar experiences, share stories."

State officials say breastfeeding also saves $1,500 in formula costs.  

But according to a survey, more than half of working moms in America are worried about heading back to the office after giving birth. And while close to 70 percent reported plans to breastfeed and pump after their maternity leave was over, the survey shows one-third stopped because they were returning to their job. 

One in five reported quitting because of pressure at work.  Some expressed concerns about leaking through clothes or finding enough time to pump. 

And only about a third said they had access to a breastfeeding room at their office. 

The good news was that 79% of the new moms reported some support at their workplace. Nearly half were able to make their working hours more flexible, and a little under one in five said there were childcare options at work.  

The Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Task Force will be hosting several free latch-on events this weekend. If you want more details, visit their website.