World Breastfeeding Week 2010: Health Care Worker Call To Action
This is the 19′th annual celebration of World Breastfeeding Week. The Theme of 2010 is commemorating the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
In the past 20 years there has been some progress in the rates of initiation of breastfeeding. Yet, only 28% of Maternity facilities world-wide have fully implemented the Ten Steps and have been certified by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Were this an analysis of anything else, this would not be a passing grade.
I’ve been in the trenches throughout this period and beyond. At first glance, it appears as though we have made great strides. According to the NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene report put out in April 2009, an impressive 85% of women initiate breastfeeding. However, after 2 months the number falls to 32% who are still exclusively breastfeeding their babies. Surveys reveal that the top two reasons for stopping were related to concerns about the milk supply either having enough (39%) or that it was adequately satisfying their babies (39%).
The fall off rate here in NYC is quite dramatic, but not surprising to me. Despite health code regulations that prohibit formula discharge packs, many families will leave the hospital with generous samples of formula in tow. Mothers who have had cesarean sections report that their babies were given at least one bottle, if not more, of formula during the first few days after delivery.
Many of the New York hospitals have lactation consultants on staff or nurses “trained” to support breastfeeding. Nonetheless, their focus seems to increasingly be on feeding a measurable amount of fluid to the newborns. They get moms to sit on the pump getting drops of colostrum and encourage them to give their babies formula until the “milk comes in”.
Using the pump as a first line of breastfeeding support relegates direct breastfeeding to the back seat. New mothers leave the hospital knowing how to pump rather than how to achieve a deep, pain-free latch.
New parents are set up to believe that artificial baby milk or formula and human milk can be exchanged ounce for ounce in bottles without consequence . Unwittingly they are weaning from the beginning or setting themselves up to experience the top two reasons many of them will choose not to breastfeed beyond two months.
Without a doubt, the Ten Steps are a helpful tool to focus our attention on the importance of consistent breastfeeding education and support.
To pack a punch and ensure successful breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks, the Ten Steps must be embraced by unequivocal and truly breastfeeding-friendly health care workers: nurses, doctors and lactation consultants.
To be continued…