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Is there a lack of breastfeeding support in hospitals and birth centers?

The US Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC) conducted a survey on maternity practices in hospitals and birth centers nationwide in 2007. The survey looked at 7 areas providing support for women who choose to breastfeed their babies and rated them on a scale of 0 to 100.

The average scores presented below were based on the responses of 2,690 facilities (out of 3,143 who received the questionnaires) participated in the survey.

  • labor and delivery – 60
  • breastfeeding assistance onsite – 80
  • mother-newborn contact – 70
  • postpartum feeding – 77
  • breastfeeding support after discharge – 40
  • nurse/birth attendant breast-feeding training and education – 51
  • structural and organizational quality – 66

It seems that even though most facilities scored high in initial breastfeeding assistance, support after discharge is lacking.

88% of the participating facilities taught the majority of mothers breastfeeding-related techniques. However, some facilities reported maternity practices that are deemed to be not supportive of breasfeeding, namely:

  • 65% advised breastfeeding mothers to limit the duration of suckling.
  • 45% gave pacifiers to more 50% of all healthy, full-term breastfed babies.
  • 24% gave as a general practice supplements (and not breastmilk exclusively) to more than 50% of all healthy, full-term breastfed babies.
  • 70% gave discharge packs containing infant formula samples to breastfeeding mothers.
  • Only 20% provided postpartum home visits.

The scores varied a lot across states. Combining all scores, New Hampshire and Vermont have the highest score of 81 while many southern states had mean scores of as low as 48.

These findings are important since previous research studies have shown that support from birth facilities, their practices, and their policies play a very important role in initiating breastfeeding as well as its continuation after discharge.

More of the results of the survey can be found here.

I completely agree with the report’s concerns over this lack of support.

I had problems breastfeeding my premature twins. They had to be initially fed with glucose water and then special formula for preemies. The support of the maternity staff at my hospital plus the follow-up support of my midwife helped me to find a way to give them my milk. I pumped at the hospital, then at home after my discharge and brought my breastmilk to the neonatal station. The station always provided me with sterilized bottles to put my milk in. Later, when my twins could go home, my midwife helped me find a place to rent a double breast pump to facilitate pumping, all paid by my health insurance. I ended up providing milk for my twins this way for 4 months until I had to stop for health reasons.

Without support, I couldn’t have done it.

Sources:

HealthDay News, 12 June 2008

CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 13 June 2008


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