New Study Addresses Hospital Practices and Breastfeeding Rates

March 26, 2009

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health looks at hospital practices, women’s intent to breastfeed, and how the former may influence the latter.

I don’t currently have access to the full-text, but here’s what I can gather from the abstract and the press release:  The study authors looked at data from the Listening to Mothers II survey, which asked women to recall their breastfeeding intentions, infant feeding practices at one week, and hospital practices. The researchers found that 70% of these women reported an intention to exclusively breastfeed, but only 50% achieved that goal at one week.

The women also reported hospital practices that conflicted with the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative’s ten steps to successful breastfeeding, including supplementation (49%) and pacifier use (45%). The researchers report that women who had their babies in hospitals practicing 6 or 7 of the steps were much more likely to achieve their goal of exclusive breastfeeding than those whose hospitals practiced 1 or none of the steps, suggesting that hospital practices have an influence on whether women succeed at breastfeeding.

Additionally, according to the press release, “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.”

Commenting on the findings, lead author Eugene Declerq asks:

“Why are those hospital practices that have been repeatedly shown to increase breastfeeding among new mothers not more consistently instituted in United States hospitals? A large proportion of mothers stop exclusive breastfeeding within the first week, and that action was strongly related to hospital practices.”

For related coverage of hospital practices and breastfeeding, see our past posts, Task Force Recommends Prenatal and Postnatal Breastfeeding Support and CDC Releases New Report on Hospitals’ Support for Breastfeeding.

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