Friday, March 20, 2009

Stating the Obvious: Hospital Practices Strongly Impact Breastfeeding Rates

A new study analyzed data from Listening to Mothers II, a nationally representative survey of 1,573 mothers who had given birth in a hospital to a single infant in 2005. Mothers were asked retrospectively about their breastfeeding intentions, infant feeding practices at one week, and hospital practices.

About half (49 percent) of first-time mothers who intended to exclusively breastfeed reported that their babies were given water or formula for supplementation, while 74 percent reported being given free formula samples or offers.

Boston University (2009, March 19). Hospital Practices Strongly Impact Breastfeeding Rates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from­ /releases/2009/03/090319161505.htm

So, this study only confirms what we already know - poor breastfeeding rates are more often caused by external factors, such as supplementation and formula offers - rather than a true inability to breastfeed.

The key to remember if you're planning a hospital birth is to state - widely and loudly - that you intend to exclusively breastfeed, and to accept all the assistance you can get, whether it be a true lactation consultant or a supportive nurse. You must remember to tell all staff that you want NO supplementation of any kind at any time - including pacifiers or glucose water.

The most vulnerable times will occur if they want to take the baby for "observation" in the nursery. While many hospitals allow 24 hour rooming-in, some still promote this archaic practice of shuttling newborns off to the nursery, where you'll have no idea if your wishes are being respected. If you aren't able to avoid this separation, for whatever reason, you can make your preferences explicitly clear beforehand or send dad to be on watch until this time period is up.

Ultimately, you may have to advocate for yourselves and your child. The best plan is to know what you're up against. Don't wait until the birth to find out if the hospital is mother-baby friendly or breastfeeding supportive. These factors can be easily assessed with a simple pre-birth tour or call to the maternity floor during your pregnancy. Don't let lack of preparation undermine your commitment to breastfeed your child.


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