Health officials are reporting that more hospitals are encouraging new mothers to breastfeed their babies. This is good news because hospital practices that promote breastfeeding make the difference in whether and how long babies are breastfed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC has issued a report that found that nearly two-thirds of hospitals in 2013 helped women start breast-feeding within an hour after birth. This is up from 44% in 2007. The report is based on a CDC survey of about 2,700 hospitals.
The survey asked hospitals if they were implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding program, which is part of the World Health Organization/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. In 2007, about 29% of hospitals implemented a majority of the Ten Steps. In 2013, nearly 54% implemented a majority of the program.
Roughly 90% of the hospitals surveyed teach new mothers breastfeeding techniques and how to recognize and respond to the feeding cues of their newborns.
However, of approximately 3,300 maternity hospitals in the US, only 289 are designated baby-friendly. Only 26% of hospitals did not routinely feed healthy newborns formula or water when there was no medical reason to do so.
The report said that just 32% of hospitals have enough support programs in place to assist breastfeeding mothers after they leave the hospital. Health organizations recommend that a baby be breastfed exclusively for at least 6 months whenever possible and be breastfed with supplemental food for another 6 months. Only 22% of babies are given only breast milk for their first 6 months and only 29% are breastfed for their whole first year. Eighty percent of babies start out being breastfed, but 60% of mothers give up breastfeeding sooner than they would like to.
Breast milk is the ideal food for babies. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ear and respiratory infections, asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome.