Low rates of breastfeeding add $2.2 billion a year to medical costs. Babies who are fed formula and stop breastfeeding early have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and respiratory and ear infections, and tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalizations and prescriptions.
Despite the acknowledged benefits of breastfeeding — including protecting against childhood obesity — many U.S. hospitals fare poorly when it comes to providing sufficient support and encouragement, according to a new report sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers found that only 14 percent of hospitals have written breastfeeding policies; nearly 80 percent of hospitals provided formula to babies when it was not medically necessary; and only one-third of hospitals accommodate “rooming in,” which offers mothers and newborns more opportunities to practice breastfeeding. “Those first few hours and days that a mom and her baby spend learning to breastfeed are critical,” said CDC director Thomas R. Frieden. “Hospitals need to better support breastfeeding, as this is one of the most important things a mother can do for her newborn.”
“In the United States most women want to breastfeed, and most women start,” said Ursula Bauer, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “But without hospital support many women have a hard time continuing to breastfeed, and they stop early. It is critical that hospitals take action to fully support breastfeeding mothers and babies so they can continue to breastfeed long after their hospital stay.”
Changing hospital practices to better support mothers and babies can improve these rates. Some actions hospitals can take include:
- Implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding;
- Partnering with Baby–Friendly hospitals to learn how to improve maternity care;
- Using CDC′s mPINC survey data to prioritize changes to improve maternity care practices;
- Stopping distribution of formula samples and give–aways to breastfeeding mothers.
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