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Mothers and Families

Are you pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant? Maybe you are a first-time mom to a brand new baby. Or, perhaps you are expecting (or just welcomed) baby number three! No matter where you find yourself in your parenting journey, breastfeeding can be a wonderful, exciting and rewarding addition to your life. You may have heard good or bad things about breastfeeding your baby. And you may also be wondering what is true and what is not. The Office of Women’s Health is a reliable, trusted source of information for you. The information that you will find below includes up-to-date research, local and national resources, myths and facts about nursing your baby and all the great programs that the Indiana Department of Health supports. The Office of Women’s Health believes that every new mom should have the right support and information to successfully nurse her baby. We are here to help and support you and we wish you the best of luck with your new baby!

Breastfeeding:  A few important facts

There are many websites and books that talk about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. But, what does the research tell us about:

The Benefits of Breast Milk

  • It protects the baby from ear infections, diarrhea and constipation, pneumonia, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), obesity, diabetes, asthma and allergies, childhood leukemia and eczema.
  • It contains antibodies, hormones, anti-viruses, anti-allergens, anti-parasites, growth factors and enzymes that are not in formula.1
  • Your breast milk is made just for your baby. It changes as your baby grows and his or her nutritional needs change, no matter how long you nurse.
  • It is always available for the baby and does not require money, a car, bottles, clean water, warming or sterilization.

The Impact of Breastfeeding

  • Research shows that there is a positive connection between breastfeeding and better cognitive development through school-age for children. 2
  • Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of postpartum depression, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Physical contact is critical to the health and well-being of a newborn baby. Breastfeeding allows mom and baby to be “skin-to-skin” and helps the new baby feel secure, warm and comforted.
  • The physical closeness of breastfeeding boosts your oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the hormone that helps breast milk flow and it also helps relax and calm you.
  • Making breast milk and feeding your baby burns calories and can help you lose weight.
  • It is a money-saver in many ways. Families that choose breastfeeding typically save hundreds of dollars per year that might otherwise be spent on formula and supplies. It also saves our economy money because babies stay healthier and parents take fewer sick days at work and submit fewer health insurance claims. 3

Breastfeeding:  Myths and Facts

  • Breastfeeding hurts - The truth is that it can be quite an adjustment to nurse your new baby. Some tenderness is not uncommon in the first few days of nursing as you and the baby learn this new skill. But, breastfeeding should never be painful. If breastfeeding hurts then there is a problem and you need to seek support. See below for some helpful resources.
  • I cannot make enough milk – No matter the size or density of your breasts, they are designed to feed your baby! Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. This means that the more often you put your baby to the breast to nurse, the more your brain gets the message to make milk. You can tell if your baby is getting enough food if he or she is having a normal amount of wet and dirty diapers.
  • Formula is healthier for my baby – Breast milk is always best for the baby. It changes as your baby’s needs change and contains antibodies, hormones, anti-viruses, anti-allergens, anti-parasites, growth factors and enzymes that are not in formula.1 There are cases in which an infant is unable to tolerate milk of any kind or in which a mother has certain health conditions that will not allow her to breastfeed. Some mothers also choose not to breastfeed their babies. In these circumstances, formula will be needed for feeding.3
  • Breastfeeding will ruin the shape of my breasts – After pregnancy, your breasts probably will not look or feel the same way they did before. In order to prepare your breasts to feed your baby, your body makes changes to the structure inside the breasts. Those changes occur whether or not you breastfeed your baby.4
  • I cannot work or go to school if I breastfeed – Many mothers work and/or go to school while nursing their babies! You can use a breast pump to pump and store milk for your baby while you are away. Many breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies are available to you for free through your health insurance or through the Indiana Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.
  • I will not be able to leave my house and nurse my baby – The State of Indiana supports all breastfeeding mothers. Ind. Code ยง 16-35-6 allows a woman to breastfeed her child anywhere the law allows her to be. If you feel uncomfortable, there are many fashionable cover-ups and carriers that can help you maintain your privacy.

Breastfeeding Resources

If you are interested in breastfeeding your baby, have questions or need help, there are many local and national resources to assist you. You can find them listed below:

How IDOH is Helping

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) has developed the Indiana State Breastfeeding Plan 2016 - 2021. This plan highlights the goals and activities that IDOH has identified to promote, support and encourage breastfeeding in the Hoosier state. IDOH wants all mothers and families to feel comfortable setting breastfeeding goals, and to be successful in meeting them. This plan is a great step to help move the state together as a whole in support of breastfeeding.

The IDOH is also supporting breastfeeding across the state through work in many of its divisions. Click on the links below to learn about how each division is encouraging and supporting nursing mothers and breastfeeding.

  • IDOH Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA) - DNPA supports the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), which is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and implemented in the United States by Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. (BFUSA). The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative recognizes and awards birthing facilities that successfully implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. The BFHI assists hospitals in providing all mothers with the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.
  • IDOH Maternal Child Health Division (MCH) – MCH provides a wide variety of resources on its webpage and through its Indiana Family Helpline. This helpline provides resources and referrals for mothers and children in Indiana. MCH also hosts the Educating Physicians in their Communities (EPIC) program. This program is a train-the-trainer model of breastfeeding education that gives providers the content and knowledge needed to train many additional colleagues and staff within their practices and communities.
  • IDOH Office of Minority Health (OMH) – The Indiana Department of Health’s (IDOH) vision is to ensure that all residents have a healthier and safer quality of life. The State Partnership Grant Program, Enhancing Minority Partnership Opportunities; Working to Eliminate Disparities (EMPOWERED), addresses issues of adult obesity, infant mortality, workforce diversity, and racial and ethnic data collection, and ensures opportunities for cultural competence training and the statewide promotion of the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care. One of the focuses for OMH will be breastfeeding and the challenges of breastfeeding for minority communities in Allen, Lake and Marion Counties.
  • Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program - WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a nutrition program, nationally recognized as an effective means for improving access to nutritious foods and promoting healthier eating and lifestyles. The Indiana WIC program supports breastfeeding mothers in multiple ways. WIC provides access to lactation specialists, resources, training and breastfeeding education and supplies for mothers who quality.
  • IDOH Office of Women’s Health (OWH) – The OWH supports breastfeeding across the state by acting to coordinate breastfeeding programming at the IDOH and through implementation of the new Indiana State Breastfeeding Plan.


1Indiana WIC.  (2015). How does breast milk stack up? Retrieved from

2National Institutes of Health, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.  (2014). What are the benefits of breastfeeding? Retrieved from

3Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.  (2014). Breastfeeding:  Why breastfeeding is important.  Retrieved from

4Breast Cancer Care. (2014). Breast changes during and after pregnancy. Retrieved from