(RxWiki News) Mothers want to give their babies the best they have to offer, which includes exclusively breastfeeding in the early months. But setting that goal and achieving it are different beasts.
A study on hospital postpartum practices found that mothers are more likely to achieve their goals in breastfeeding their children if the hospitals where they gave birth follow breastfeeding-friendly practices.
"Avoid giving your newborn formula in the hospital."
Cria Perrine, PhD, of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led the study to find out the extent to which mothers met their breastfeeding goals and the ways hospital practices might have helped them.
The researchers gave 1,457 women a prenatal questionnaire followed by surveys every month for the following year after their child's birth. They found that 85 percent of the women planned to breastfeed exclusively for at least three months, but only 32.4 percent of the mothers succeeded in that goal.
Married moms who already had other children were more likely to meet their goals while obese moms and smokers were less likely. Mothers who hoped to breastfeed longer than three months were also less likely to meet their goal.
The researchers then looked at six practices of hospitals where the babies were born. The practices are all part of the designation of a hospital as being "Baby-Friendly," a title given when hospitals meet criteria aimed at better outcomes for the babies, including practices that encourage breastfeeding.
The practices included encouraging the mother to breastfeed within an hour of birth, giving the baby only breast milk, having the baby in the mother's room after birth instead of being kept in the nursery, having the mother breastfeed her baby on demand from the child, providing breastfeeding support information and withholding pacifiers from babies.
The researchers found that mothers whose babies did not receive supplemental formula feedings were more than twice as likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.
"The hospital stay, although often only two days, is a critical time for mothers to establish exclusive breastfeeding," the authors wrote. "Experiences there affect whether mothers exclusively breastfeed as long as they would like to after leaving the hospital."
The authors therefore concluded that increasing Baby-Friendly hospital practices - especially ensuring the baby only eats breast milk while in the hospital - may improve the likelihood that the two-thirds of women who aren't reaching their goal are able to breastfeed as long as they planned.
The study was published online June 4 in the journal Pediatrics. The research received no external funding, and the authors declared no competing interests.