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More breastfeeding support needed in hospitals

Just in time for World Breastfeeding Week (yes, there is one), the CDC has released a report (.pdf) showing that only a small percentage of U.S. hospitals - 4 percent - provide the necessary support for breastfeeding moms. Among the other bleak findings, as reported by Healthwatch:

• Almost 80 percent of hospitals give formula to healthy breastfeeding infants when it isn’t medically necessary, which the CDC says “makes it much harder for mothers and babies to learn how to breastfeed and continue breastfeeding at home”;

• Only 14 percent of hospitals have a written, model breastfeeding policy;

• Only one-third of hospitals practice rooming in, whereby mothers and babies stay together 24 hours a day; and

• Almost 75 percent of hospitals don’t provide mothers and babies the support they need when they leave the hospital, including a follow-up visit, a phone call from hospital staff and referrals to lactation consultants, Women Infants [and] Children and other support systems in their community.

The report, which follows a White House announcement that health plans will soon be required to provide women with no-cost breastfeeding services and counseling, spells out a clear need for better in-hospital support for new moms. (Public support is something to be worked on, too - but let's take baby steps, shall we?)

The CDC goes on to outline ten ways for institutions to help ensure successful breastfeeding (among them: have a breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to staff, practice "rooming in" for moms and their babies, and encourage feeding on demand), and I hope medical professionals will pay attention and help remove the barriers facing  patients who want to breastfeed.  I also hope - though I'm not holding my breath - that when breastfeeding hits the headlines from now on, the focus won't be on the trivial. After all, protecting children against illness and lowering our country's health-care costs is pretty serious business.

Previously: Surgeon general calls for more breastfeeding support, Breastfeeding called a “secret weapon to save billions of dollars” and Free formula may discourage moms from breastfeeding exclusively
Photo by myllissa

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