In accordance with August’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month, the Santa Barbara Breastfeeding Coalition named Cottage Hospital pediatrician Dr. Vichai Phungrasamee (affectionately known as Dr. Vic) “Doctor of the Year” on Monday for his work promoting and educating new mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding. The event was especially important for the organization due to the recent addition of lactation rooms for hospital employees.
“[Receiving this award] is encouraging,” said Dr. Vic of his latest accolade. “It feels good to know that we get support from all of the different organizations involved in pediatric care here in Santa Barbara.” As 2012’s Doctor of the Year, Dr. Vic was awarded with donations from Santa Ynez Inn, Trattoria Grappolo, and Imagine Wine.
Lactation consultant and Registered Nurse Sandra Jansen explained the importance of acknowledging doctors who advocate breastfeeding to their patients. “Between the 1940s and 1980s, especially, new mothers did not automatically nurse, but in the last 14 years I’ve been [working at Cottage Hospital] we’ve seen breastfeeding rates jump from around 50 percent to about 98 percent today,” said Jansen. She attributed that increase largely to the doctors who recommend breastfeeding over formula, and the fact that the hospital has stopped including formula in care packages for low-income mothers.
The new lactation rooms for hospital workers are a part of the Breastfeeding Coalition’s campaign to promote breastfeeding. The organization encourages businesses to incorporate similar rooms for mothers and flexible breaks for lactation, citing employee loyalty and lower heath care costs as the top benefits to a company who supports an employee’s choice to breastfeed.
Aside from the financial advantages that breastfeeding offers — which, according to Jansen, can save a family up to $2,000 per year in the cost of formula alone — new research shows that even one year of breastfeeding can mean an infant is sick half as often and reduces instances of allergies. The Breastfeeding Coalition states other possible health benefits include lower risk of diabetes, cholesterol, and cancer for both the mother and baby.