Breastfeeding support lacking at hospitals, CDC says

August 11, 2011

Fewer than 4% of United States hospitals offer the full range of support mothers need to breastfeed successfully, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For CDC's list of steps that hospitals can take to strengthen breastfeeding support, click here.

Fewer than 4% of United States hospitals offer the full range of support mothers need to breastfeed successfully, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, published online August 2 in CDC Vital Signs, looked at data from the agency’s national survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC), which assesses the percentage of US hospitals whose practices align with the World Health Organization-United Nations Children’s Fund Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. It found that

only 14% of hospitals have a written breastfeeding policy;
almost 80% allow giving formula to healthy breastfeeding infants when it isn’t medically indicated;
only about one-third practice rooming-in; and
nearly 75% don’t provide mothers and infants with breastfeeding support after discharge (ie, follow-up visit, telephone call from hospital staff, referrals to lactation consultants and community support systems).

“In the United States, most women want to breastfeed, and most women start,” says Ursula Bauer, PhD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “But without hospital support many women have a hard time continuing to breastfeed, and they stop early. It is critical that hospitals take action to fully support breastfeeding mothers and babies so they can continue to breastfeed long after their hospital stay.”

Steps that hospitals can take to strengthen breastfeeding support include implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding; partnering with hospitals that meet the standards of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to learn ways to improve maternity care; using the mPINC survey data to prioritize needed changes in maternity care; and discontinuing distribution of formula samples to breastfeeding mothers.     

Low rates of breastfeeding add $2.2 billion a year to medical costs, according to the CDC, and contribute to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and respiratory and ear infections.

To read other articles in this issue of Special Delivery,click here.