Breastfeeding support improves in many U.S. hospitals

Hospital support for breastfeeding has improved since 2007, according to the latest CDC Vital Signs report released today. The percentage of U.S. hospitals using a majority of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, the global standard for hospital care to support breastfeeding, increased from approximately  29 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2013, a nearly two-fold increase over six years. Improved hospital care could increase rates of breastfeeding nationwide and contribute to healthier children.

“Breastfeeding has immense health benefits for babies and their mothers,” said 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.”

Of the nearly four million babies born each year in the U.S., 14 percent are born in Baby-Friendly hospitals, a number that has nearly tripled in recent years, but remains low. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was established by the World Health Organization and UNICEF and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The core of the BFHI is the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

“What happens in the hospital can determine whether a mom starts and continues to breastfeed, and we know that many moms – 60 percent – stop breastfeeding earlier than they’d like,” said Cria Perrine, PhD, epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “These improvements in hospital support for breastfeeding are promising, but we also want to see more hospitals fully supporting mothers who want to breastfeed. The Ten Steps help ensure that mothers get the best start with breastfeeding.”

There are many health benefits to breastfeeding. Babies that are breastfed have reduced risks for ear, respiratory, stomach and intestinal infections. They also are at lower risk of asthma, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Pre-term infants are at a particularly high risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease that affects the stomach and intestinal tract; breastfeeding can protect infants from this disease.

Also, mothers that breastfeed are less likely to get breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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