More US Hospitals Should be Baby-Friendly

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Supermodel Gisele Bundchen caused a stir of controversy when she declared in a recent interview, “There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.” While the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is one of the most important child survival practices, enforcing this as a law is highly unlikely. Not every mother is able to breastfeed. Furthermore, unlike car seat laws, there is no practical way of enforcing this. However, the health care system does have a responsibility to provide mothers with the skills and information necessary to make an informed decision about breastfeeding.

In the U.S., studies show that $13 billion in medical costs and preventable deaths could be saved each year by breastfeeding, as children who are breastfed typically require fewer doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, and medications. However, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only about 14% of U.S. mothers continue to breastfeed for the recommended six months.

Given the numerous social and occupational challenges mothers face today when making this choice, health care providers have a unique opportunity to promote breastfeeding during the critical time directly following delivery. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a program designed by WHO and UNICEF, which guides hospitals and birthing facilities to provide an ideal environment through the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding”.  National and state governments should seriously consider incorporating this program as part of efforts to control healthcare spending and improve the nation’s health.

For more information on finding a Baby-Friendly hospital, please go to: http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/

National Breastfeeding Hotline: http://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/

United States Breastfeeding Committee: http://www.usbreastfeeding.org

(written by WYS & CH)

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2 Responses to “More US Hospitals Should be Baby-Friendly”

  1. rlb300 Says:

    What a terrific idea! Unfortunately, breastfeeding happens in a cultural context. In the US so many mothers have to go back to work after a short, six week maternity leave. Though not impossible, that does make it difficult to breastfeed exclusively. In order to support mothers who want to breastfeed, we need a policy where employers are required to give longer maternity leave so new mothers don’t have to fear losing their jobs.

  2. patrickann Says:

    It’s hard enough to encourage women in this country to breast feed longer, even though they are more educated and more protected from formula marketing practices than much of the world. Baby-friendly hospitals are a good idea, but can be difficult to achieve (even for many US hospitals). And while it is a good idea to model proper behavior for new mothers, and to educate them as much as possible, they are still often left with tremendous social pressures at home that work against it. There are still many places in the world where formula-feeding is felt to be a sign of sophistication and wealth. It’ll take a lot more than publicity campaigns to change these attitudes. Of course, we need to keep trying, but it is discouraging that even in the US, exclusive breast feeding has leveled off and even retreated some form the rates in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m afraid I’m just pessimistic about people’s ability to change, because it’s the”right thing to do.” Perhaps throwing a few non-breastfeeding mothers in jail would make a difference….(just kidding–that’s my cynicism coming through).

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