As the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), and breastfeeding advocates in more than 170 countries worldwide celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) for the 19th year the CDC has published a report with discouraging statistics about new mom support while in the hospital.
The report shockingly states that only 14 percent of the institutions have a defined written model of breastfeeding policy, just 22% limit breastfeeding supplement use, and less than one-third offer support to new mothers post-discharge.
Dr. Thomas said that the hospitals believe that changing these practices would cost them money but his argument is that if children are breastfed, they will fall ill less thereby reducing the costs in the long run. He added that low rates of breastfeeding add $2.2 billion a year to medical costs, which is based solely on healthcare costs and doesn’t include lost productivity or other costs.
He also pointed out that ‘rooming in is a practice that has been in existence for decades, where the baby spends 24 hours with his mother. But some hospitals whisk the babies away to the nursery without giving the baby and mother time to bond.
Just a third of hospitals keep babies at their mom’s bedside, according to the report.
Breastfed infants have a lower risk of obesity, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, and a host of infectious diseases. Their mothers also have a low risk of breast and ovarian cancer apart from other benefits.
The CDC report is a government initiative to promote breastfeeding. In January, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin joined other advocates to encourage women to breastfeed. Currently, there are only 15 percent of mothers who breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and only 44 percent who continue to do so after this period.
What is an added concern is that only 4 percent of hospitals have adopted at least 9 of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, a Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative sponsored by the WHO and UNICEF and 9% have adopted no more than two.
Helping mothers breastfeed within an hour of birth, involving the community to encourage mothers to breastfeed, rooming in, having a written policy and banning supplementary feeding like formulas are some of the principles.
The report found that only half of the hospitals encouraged mothers to breastfeed within an hour of birth. And only one fourth provide mothers with breastfeed support like follow-up visit, a phone call, or referrals to lactation consultants after they go home.
Frieden set that the criteria set by WHO/UNICEF were good because in a previous report it was found out that the more number of principles a hospital met, the more likely it was for a mother to continue to breastfeed even after two months.
At the current rate, the director feels it would take 100 years for all the hospitals in the US to follow the recommendations and thereby help encourage mothers to breastfeed.
It is time hospitals speak loud and clear about the critical importance of breastfeeding and give new mothers the support they need to raise a healthy baby.
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