MotherBaby Network

advocacy and commentary with a focus on Lane County, Oregon

Hospital breastfeeding practices key to moving forward

Media coverage of Pediatrics’ recent analysis concluding that exclusive breastfeeding through six months could save more than 900 babies and $13 billion every year stimulated considerable discussion on the blogosphere this week.

The importance of reforming hospital policy and practice, as I stress in my previous post, figures prominently. Why? Hospitals without consistent, transparent Baby-Friendly practices are the first and, too often, the final barrier to sound breastfeeding initiation. Following are a few favorite posts for your reading pleasure.

Best for Babes: ABC News: Get Your Facts Straight on Costs of Low Breastfeeding Rates

ABC News: “The biggest barrier to mothers continuing to breastfeed seems to be the fact that more mothers are in the workplace,” said Dr. Lillian Beard, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences and an assistant professor at the Howard University College of Medicine. [. . . ] ‘I think this report puts an unfair slant on it,’ Beard said. “It’s not taking into account that for almost two thirds of U.S. families, women are either the co-breadwinner or the breadwinner. Returning to work is germane for the survival of the family.” Beard said that while a majority of women may want to breastfeed, outside constraints make it difficult and there is a drop-off in breastfeeding once they have to return to work.

BfB: Actually, the biggest barrier to continuing to breastfeed is not the workplace, but the fact that 70% of hospitals perform poorly on breastfeeding support.   If moms can’t even make it through the first few days without 25% of healthy, full-term babies being unnecessarily supplemented, often against the parents wishes, how are they supposed to continue breastfeeding when they go back to work?   Unnecessary supplementation is a ”booby trap” that undermines the supply and demand mechanics of breastfeeding, wrecks the baby’s latch, gets breastfeeding off to a lousy and often painful start, and is practically guaranteed to make moms want to throw in the towel.   And we don’t blame them.

Blacktating: Study: Lack of Breastfeeding Costs Lives, Billions of Dollars

Blacktating also takes issue with ABC news coverage for featuring Dr. Lillian Beard:

A quick Google search shows that maybe Dr. Beard has more of a stake in this issue than she’d like to admit. See, Dr. Beard is a member of the “Nestle Family“! She serves on their board and answers questions about infant nutrition for their Nestle and Gerber web sites. This is a woman who has been quoted as saying that Nestle’s infant formula is almost as digestible as breast milk. I wonder why ABC left that part out? She’s credited as a professor at both George Washington University and Howard University, no mention of Nestle.

Breastfeeding saw a boost from public policy recently with the “right to pump” provision that mandates that employers with 50 more employees must establish reasonable spaces (other than the bathroom, thank you very much) for women to be able to express breast milk, for up to one year.

Employers are probably next up on most new mothers’ breastfeeding road map…..

RH Reality Check: Got Breast Milk? First We Need Equity.

Even though we spend more, per capita, every year on health care, we rank 37th in infant mortality in the world. According to Momsrising.org, when paid family leave is instituted we see a 25 percent drop in infant mortality rates. One of the reasons? It allows mothers the time to establish a breastfeeding relationship with their new baby.

Breastfeeding saw a boost from public policy recently with the “right to pump” provision that mandates that employers with 50 more employees must establish reasonable spaces (other than the bathroom, thank you very much) for women to be able to express breast milk, for up to one year.

Congress has a role, too….

Perhaps Pediatrics’ findings and the subsequent discussion taking place in Congressional districts across the land will percolate? 90 national and state organizations, including the Oregon Breastfeeding Coalition and the Community Health Partnership – Oregon Public Health Institute, recently requested $15 million per year from Congress to promote and protect breastfeeding mothers’ rights. Here’s the request letter.

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