Breastfeeding Gets a Boost

Breastfeeding support in US hospitals saw gains in recent years

(RxWiki News) More hospitals are teaching new mothers and moms-to-be how to breastfeed their newborns — a development that could lead to healthier children, health officials say.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the number of hospitals providing breastfeeding education to mothers-to-be increased rapidly in recent years.

“Breastfeeding has immense health benefits for babies and their mothers,” said CDC Director Tom R. Frieden, MD, MPH, in a press release. “More hospitals are better supporting new moms to breastfeed — every newborn should have the best possible start in life.”

While many more hospitals were providing adequate breastfeeding education and support to women in 2013 than in 2007, the authors of this study, led by Cria G. Perrine, PhD, an epidemiologist with the CDC, said there's still plenty of room for improvement.

Dr. Perrine and colleagues looked at the number of US hospitals that used more than half of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, a program of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. In 2007, 29 percent of hospitals used more than half of the Ten Steps. By 2013, that figure had increased to 54 percent.

“What happens in the hospital can determine whether a mom starts and continues to breastfeed, and we know that many moms — 60 percent — stop breastfeeding earlier than they’d like,” Dr. Perrine said in a press release. “These improvements in hospital support for breastfeeding are promising, but we also want to see more hospitals fully supporting mothers who want to breastfeed. The Ten Steps help ensure that mothers get the best start with breastfeeding.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies should be breastfed exclusively for their first six months. After that, guidelines call for around 12 months of breastfeeding, along with the slow introduction of some foods. Among the breastfeeding benefits for babies that Dr. Perrine and team listed were a reduced risk of respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome.

Mothers may also see benefits from breastfeeding. Past research has found that women who breastfeed their children are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer, the CDC reports.

Around 80 percent of US hospitals participated in this study. Hospitals reported their own adherence to the Ten Steps.

This study was published online Oct. 6 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Dr. Perrine and team disclosed no outside funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 8, 2015