Booby Traps Series: Only half of hospitals help moms initiate breastfeeding in the first hour

This post is the 17th in a series on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

For the last few months I’ve been writing about the Booby Traps in pregnancy and birth.

But now it’s time to move on to the newborn period.  And I’m afraid that, while progress is being made, there are still Booby Traps around every corner.

Let’s start with our babies’ very first feeding.  Research from as far back as the 1970’s has shown that timing of the initiation of breastfeeding is important.  Initiating breastfeeding in the first hour is strongly correlated with breastfeeding both in the early days and even at 2 and 3 months.  It’s such a special time that some have dubbed it The Magical Hour.

The evidence is strong enough that initiation of breastfeeding in the first hour* was made one of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.  The Ten Steps, created by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, form the foundation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

With all this evidence you’d think that all hospitals would make this their standard practice, right?

Unfortunately that isn’t yet the case.  In CDC surveys filled out by hospitals for 2009, only 51% reported that “≥90% of healthy full-term breastfed infants initiate breastfeeding within one hour of uncomplicated vaginal birth.”  This is up from 44% in 2007, but the current percentage – only half – shows that we have a long, long way to go.

The worst rates were in the Southeast and Southwest regions of the country, with rates of 39% and 43%, respectively.  The West had the best rate, at 59%.

Wondering what the Ten Steps say about the timing of initiation of breastfeeding after a cesarean birth?  To comply with this step in the case of a cesarean birth, babies are to be placed skin-to-skin, in their mothers’ arms, within a half an hour of their mothers’ ability to respond to them.  The rate of compliance with this practice is not measured by the CDC surveys.

Was your hospital one of the half that does routinely help moms initiate breastfeeding in the first hour, or one of the other half?

* The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative criterion is that breastfeeding should be initiated in the first half hour.  In the U.S., the criterion is initiation within the first hour.

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10 Comments | Last revised on 08/30/2011

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