Most hospitals don't adequately support breastfeeding mothers

August 1, 2011

Although evidence shows that breastfeeding prevents childhood obesity and reduces a mother's risk for breast and ovarian cancers, many hospitals in the United States fail to support breastfeeding.

Although evidence shows that breastfeeding prevents childhood obesity and reduces a mother's risk for breast and ovarian cancers, many hospitals in the United States fail to support breastfeeding.

The CDC surveyed US obstetric hospitals in 2007 and in 2009 about maternity practices as they relate to breastfeeding. Some 2,690 hospitals in 2007 and 2,672 hospitals in 2009 completed the surveys.

In 2009, more than 92% of hospitals provided prenatal breastfeeding education; 89.1% taught breastfeeding techniques; and 81.8% provided instruction on recognizing and responding to feeding cues. However, only 14.4% of hospitals had a model breastfeeding policy in 2009.

During the 2-year period, hospitals implementing 3 to 5 of the 10 recommended practices actually decreased from 60.5% in 2007 to 54.3% in 2009. Few hospitals followed at least 9 of the recommended practices in either year (2.4% in 2007; 3.5% in 2009), and less than 1% of hospitals implemented all 10 practices either year.

The CDC researchers say their data illustrate that current hospital policies for support of breastfeeding are inconsistent with evidence-based best practices and that the hospital experience is critical for women who intend to breastfeed.

The CDC reports that suboptimal breastfeeding costs the US approximately $2.2 billion in added medical costs each year.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital signs; hospital practices to support breastfeeding-United States, 2007 and 2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011;60:1020-1025.