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Study: Hospital support can help low-income women reach breastfeeding goals

March 7, 2022

When hospitals take steps to help low-income mothers begin breastfeeding shortly after giving birth, the women are more likely to meet their goal of breastfeeding for at least a month, according to a new study.

Breastfeeding has been linked to health benefits for both women and children. The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding with complementary foods until the child is at least 1 year.

However, many families fall short of these recommendations. Breastfeeding rates are lower for Black women than White women and for low-income women compared to those with a higher income.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) set out to look at the effectiveness of six of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The steps are part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative created by the World Health Organization and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and endorsed by the AAP.

The CDC team analyzed 2013 data on 1,080 low-income women enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children who said they intended to breastfeed for at least a month without using any formula or other milk. About 47% met this goal, according to “Maternity Care Practices and Breastfeeding Intentions at One Month among Low-Income Women,” (Beauregard JL, et al. Pediatrics. March 7, 2022).

The data showed starting to breastfeed within an hour of giving birth and giving only breast milk both were linked to meeting the goal of breastfeeding without any formula or other milk for a month. When a hospital employed six of the steps in the initiative, 76% of women met this goal compared to 16% when the hospital employed two or fewer steps.

Authors noted nearly half of the infants were fed something other than breast milk while in the hospital, which can significantly impact breastfeeding. They stressed the importance of providing formula only when medically necessary.

The analysis was limited by not analyzing all 10 steps and the data coming from 2013. However, the authors said it shows the importance of hospital support for low-income women intending to breastfeed.

“Improving implementation of and access to evidence-based maternity care practices could help to improve women’s ability to meet their breastfeeding intentions, improving breastfeeding outcomes among this low-income population,” they wrote.

About 28% of births in the U.S. occur in hospitals designated as Baby-Friendly.



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