Breast milk and breastfeeding are recognized to be the ideal choices of nutrition and feeding for infants. Breastfeeding is the normal method of feeding infants, and provides many benefits to both infants and mothers.
In addition to receiving essential nutrients, breastfed infants have lower rates of ear infections, gastroenteritis, asthma, obesity and diabetes. Benefits for mothers include decreased incidence of breast and ovarian cancer.
National goals in the U.S. are a breastfeeding initiation rate of 75 percent (with an exclusive breastfeeding rate for the first 3 months of 60 percent), and continuation of 50 percent at 6 months of age (with 25 percent exclusively breastfeeding).
A new study in Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care suggests that implementing 5 breastfeeding-friendly practices in hospitals following birth can significantly improve long-term breastfeeding success. Nearly two-thirds of mothers who engaged in all 5 supportive practices were still breastfeeding 4 months after going home.
The specific hospital practices include:
- Initiating breastfeeding within 1 hour of delivery
- Keeping infants in the mother’s hospital room
- Feeding infants only breast milk in the hospital; no supplementation of water or formula
- Prohibiting pacifier use in the hospital
- Providing a telephone number to call for breastfeeding help after hospital discharge
Breastfeeding support is necessary for success. If new moms don’t feel that things are going well and don’t have any one to talk to they will turn to formula because it is perceived as being easier.
At the very least, if someone just called after the the baby arrived home to answer questions, it may help new moms feel like they are not alone.