A local group says Knoxville and Knox County are leading the state in a relatively new healthy kids initiative.
Sheri Hedberg, Chair of the East Tennessee Breastfeeding Coalition, says Memphis and Nashville are just starting big public breastfeeding awareness events this year, while this is Knoxville’s third annual "World Breastfeeding Week" kickoff event.
“So we’ve really seen a big increase in the number of sites this year and next year we’ll probably do more,” she says.
Hedberg says 185 moms registered to attend the week’s kickoff event this morning in New Harvest Park.
“It really just shows that moms are feeling more comfortable coming out and saying ‘Hey, I’m a breastfeeding mom and I’m going to participate in these public events that increase awareness for breastfeeding,’ and that’s really our goal,” Hedberg says.
Hedberg says a lot of that growth stems from outside support, especially from the Knox County health department and Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero. Rogero says it’s an important initiative she believes in both as a mayor and as a mother.
“We have a lot of healthy family initiatives and healthy is initiatives in this community,” she says, “and this is one way that you can really make sure that your child has a healthy start.”
Knox County Health Department Director Martha Buchanan says while breastfeeding is becoming more common, it’s still a challenge for many moms.
“Societal acceptance is a challenge; people are okay with you breastfeeding as long as they don’t have to see it. And that’s unfortunate and we’re trying to change that,” she says.
Buchanan says events like this help build awareness for moms and babies.
“I think the other challenge is that because it’s been so long since there’s been a lot of breastfeeding we don’t have a lot of moms and grandmoms to help out,” she says.
Buchanan says studies show breastfed babies and their mothers are generally healthier and stay healthier, in turn promoting healthier communities.