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CDC to hospitals: Pump up your breast-feeding support

New moms don't get the breast-feeding support they need from hospitals, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control.

Less than 4 percent of U.S. hospitals do everything they should to help mothers breast-feed, and only 14 percent of hospitals have a written, model breast-feeding policy.

Only one-third of hospitals practice rooming in, where mothers and babies stay together so that they have frequent chances to breast-feed. And nearly 80 percent of hospitals give formula to healthy breast-feeding infants when it’s not medically necessary, the report finds.

Hospitals should do better, health officials say -- especially given the health benefits of breast-feeding.

“Those first few hours and days that a mom and her baby spend learning to breast-feed are critical," said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.  "Hospitals need to better support breast-feeding, as this is one of the most important things a mother can do for her newborn.  Breast-feeding helps babies grow up healthy and reduces health care costs.”

The report data comes from a national survey of maternity care that the CDC conducts every two years.

So what does it take for hospitals to be deemed “baby-friendly” and follow practices that increase the rates of breast-feeding? The CDC has a list of steps that include:

  • Encouraging mothers to room in, staying with their baby 24 hours a day.
  • Not giving healthy, breast-feeding infants any other food or drink, unless there’s a medical need for it.
  • Connecting moms with support groups and other resources, especially the week after they leave the hospital.
  • Stopping the distribution of formula samples and give-aways to breast-feeding mothers.

Moms, if you delivered a baby in a hospital, chances are this news isn’t surprising. What’s the worst advice you got about breast-feeding in the hospital? Did you have to fend off nurses offering formula? Or were you fortunate to be in a facility where either a friendly nurse or lactation consultant helped you with breast-feeding?

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