CDC Says ‘Not Enough Breast-Feeding’

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A majority of U.S. hospitals are not taking extra measures to promote breast-feeding during or after the mother and child’s stay, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Tuesday.  

Among the shortcomings the agency identified is many hospitals fail to have a written breast-feeding policy in place, do not practice “rooming in,” which keeps the babies in the room with their mothers to provide more opportunities for breast-feeding, and do not provide adequate follow-ups or recommend services once the mother and child have been discharged.

“There have been some improvements in recent years, but we’re still a long way from where we need to be,” CDC director Thomas R. Frieden said.

Frieden explained that the lack of support for breast-feeding in hospitals is problematic since infants who stop breastfeeding early have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and respiratory and ear infections, and also tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalizations and prescriptions. 

Additionally, the latest Vital Signs report released by the CDC estimates that low rates of breastfeeding have economic implications, adding an estimated $2.2 billion to the nation’s total medical costs each year.

Frieden said the lack of support for breast-feeding in hospitals is largely driven by cultural changes that have come into practice over the past decade or so.

“Many barriers are presented that make it less likely that women who want to breast-feed will continue to do so,” he said. Such barriers include removing the child from the room immediately after birth and distributing formula to every child, regardless of whether the mother wishes to breast-feed.

Many hospitals also believe implementing a comprehensive breast-feeding policy would cost them more than the systems in place. Frieden says this factor is largely driven by arrangements institutions have with formula companies, who provide free formula for premature babies in exchange for distributing other products to babies who don’t. 

The CDC said its data indicate that “baby-friendly” hospitals do not incur higher expenditures due to the promotion of breast-feeding long-term and, in fact, they can actually save on expenses from health problems seen in children who switch to formula too soon. 

The agency believes educational initiatives will help increase the number of hospitals that adopt comprehensive breast-feeding policies. And it suggests that hospitals not currently promoting breast-feeding partner with baby-friendly hospitals to learn how to improve maternity care, end distribution of formula samples and host giveaways for breastfeeding mothers, all the while using CDC data to prioritize changes in maternity care practices.

Reproductive health has been high on the government’s list, as yesterday the Department of Health and Human Services issued new regulations on insurance coverage for birth control and other preventive care. Read about it on MainStreet!

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