Respect the breast.
That's the rallying cry from mothers and doctors across the world during Breast Feeding Awareness Week, which runs through Saturday.
The campaign is championed by breast-feeding advocates from nearly 200 countries and involves hospitals and neonatal centers offering educational programs and seminars highlighting the health and emotional benefits of breast-feeding.
Among the nursing faithful is Teri Caso, a new mom from Grants Pass who plans to breast-feed her 11-month-old boy until he's a year old.
"The end is coming up quickly and I'm glad I did it," Caso said. "It was something I set my mind to and made it happen."
Caso's son was born at Rogue Valley Medical Center, an Asante Health System hospital which has lactation consultants on staff to promote breast-feeding to new moms.
"We don't pressure mothers to breast-feed because it's a decision they need to make themselves," said Katherine Abdun-Nur, a nurse and lactation consultant at Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass, also an Asante hospital.
Abdun-Nur said the majority of new mothers express interest in nursing their newborns.
"Women want to breast feed, but there are various things that come along to keep them from continuing for as long as they want," she said.
Many mothers feel pressured to stop nursing their babies when they return to work after recovering from childbirth, Abdun-Nur said.
"We educate them in the laws that support breast-feeding," she said.
A 2007 Oregon law mandates that an employer with 25 or more workers allow a mother 30-minute breaks during each four-hour shift for breast-feeding or using a milk pump.
Abdun-Nur said the law helps workers and employers alike because it keeps mothers and their children healthy.
"You don't have mothers missing work because of sick kids and other medical problems that breast-feeding keeps away," she said. "... A baby and a mother can be healthy if they don't breast-feed, but the health benefits have been proven."
For Caso, the act of nursing her baby transcends medical advantages.
"The bond it allows you to develop with your child is incredible," Caso said.
Caso said the nurses she worked with at RVMC have given her much-needed coaching on how to make the most of her decision.
"It takes some practice," she said, laughing. "Some babies take to it faster than others."
Abdun-Nur said health care reforms washing over the country seek to promote preventive practices such as breast-feeding.
"Healthy mothers and children keep people out of hospitals," she said. "It's good for everyone."
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.