Breastfeeding can be a good start toward preventing adult diabetes and childhood obesity, but a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report suggests that U.S. hospitals sometimes work at cross-purposes with the goal of encouraging new moms to breastfeed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns receive breast milk exclusively in the first six months of life, but the CDC report found that nearly 80 percent of U.S. hospitals give formula to healthy infants even when they are being breastfed.
“Sometimes nurses with good intentions say to mom: ‘Oh you really need the rest, you really need a break, let us feed the baby for you during the night,'” said Carol Carofiglio, a maternity care nurse at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
She says Jefferson nurses are helping to establish new policies that support breastfeeding moms. Carofiglio wants to increase the number of mothers who breastfeed exclusively. Right now 18 to 24 percent of new mothers who deliver on Jefferson’s maternity unit choose the nursing-only option, she said.
Jefferson now suggests that moms “room-in” with their baby. When a newborn is away in the nursery, Carofiglio says moms are less likely to learn a child’s feeding cues.
“Then, we also get babies who become frantic crying, hysterical. And then someone notices the baby and brings it out to the mom and usually at that point it becomes more frustrating to get a successful latch for mom and baby and continue breastfeeding,” Carofiglio said.
The CDC report says just one-third of U.S. hospitals allow new mothers to keep their newborn with them 24 hours a day.
Placing an infant on the mother’s chest in the first minutes after birth to give them skin-to-skin contact is another practice that promotes breastfeeding.
Carofiglio says many moms come to the hospital without any education on breastfeeding and may need weeks of support to get the hang of it.
“Often there’s a lot of pressure to learn everything you need to know about breastfeeding in the two days that a mother is in the hospital,” she said.
When hospitals adopt 10 changes to encourage breast-feeding, the World Health Organization dubs them “Baby-Friendly.” A Jefferson committee is exploring whether to strive for that certification.