Breastfeeding, many new mothers find out, is surprisingly difficult, especially during the first few weeks after the baby’s birth. But with the right procedures, a hospital can help new moms get a good start. Fortunately, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vital Signs report shows that support for breastfeeding mothers in hospitals has gotten better since 2007. Still, the document suggests, there is room for improvement.
According to the CDC report, the percentage of hospitals in the U.S. that use the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, a standard for hospitals to support breastfeeding, increased from 29 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2013. Other encouraging findings: Hospital staff provided prenatal breastfeeding education to 91 percent of women in 2007 and 93 percent in 2013, and breastfeeding technique education to 88 percent in 2007 and 92 percent in 2013. Early initiation of breastfeeding increased from 44 percent in 2007 to 65 percent in 2013.
However, in 2013, only 26 percent of hospitals made sure that only breast milk was given to healthy breastfeeding infants who did not need formula for medical reasons. And only 45 percent of hospitals kept babies together with their mothers during the whole hospital stay—a practice that helps mothers learn feeding cues and provides more breastfeeding opportunities.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age and continued breastfeeding alongside solid foods up to 2 years of age.
“Breastfeeding has immense health benefits for babies and their mothers,” says CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “More hospitals are better supporting new moms to breastfeed; every newborn should have the best possible start in life.”