More Hospitals Are Finally Encouraging Breastfeeding

breastfeeding babyOccasionally, the American Healthcare System gets something right (no political battles, just go with it). To earn a "Baby-Friendly" designation from Baby Friendly USA, 121 hospitals and birth centers in the US have implemented certain policies to promote and support healthy starts to breastfeeding relationships, based on the recommendations from UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

If you've got Kaiser Permanente, you may be interested to know they signed a commitment with the Partnership for a Healthier American, to turn ALL 29 of their hospitals "Baby-Friendly," which encourages breastfeeding and offers more support to moms as a strategy to help prevent childhood obesity.

What's that mean for the almost 100,000 moms that give birth with them yearly, and why does it matter?


Thirteen of their 29 hospitals were already designated as "Baby Friendly," so fortunately they've got the groundwork laid. By the start of 2013, any of their facilities that do maternal or child health services must be Baby Friendly as well, and/or participate in the Perination Core Measures program from the Joint Commission. That would require all hospitals to report rates of exclusive breastfeeding (meaning no supplementation) at the time the mom is discharged from the hospital, which will be reviewed quarterly so any problems can be quickly recognized. This helps really give a picture of whether or not breastfeeding success rates are due to good -- or poor -- in-hospital support. Super important there, since often moms who want to breastfeed are Booby Trapped right from the start by nurses giving bottles behind mom's back (grr!), or poorly trained lactation consultants claiming problems where there are none, or even creating some in a misguided attempt to help.

To help with that education of both moms and staff, Kaiser will make a breastfeeding practices guide for hospitals available for the public. When filling out a birthplan while pregnant with your OB, feeding intentions are one of the many things discussed. If the mom wants to breastfeed, they want to help her even before the baby's born, with advice at each visit, and even a breast examination to see if there's anything that could possibly cause problems. Honestly, a good majority of true issues aren't just visible at an exam, but if you had, say, inverted nipples, a trained pro teaching you how to draw them out before you've got a hungry newborn can be super helpful and prevent a lot of stress later. And of course, they recognize that not all moms can breastfeed, and they also understand that often moms aren't enabled to succeed either. CEO Lawrence A. Soler said:

Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to make breastfeeding a priority for each child born in one of their hospitals has potential to make a very big impact, and we’re pleased they are such a strong partner in fighting childhood obesity.

And like it or not, it's true -- not only are the growth charts for breastfed babies completely different than those for formula fed babies, which makes sense that a different diet has different results, but many, many studies have shown that the gut flora in infancy really does help program some things for life, and risk of obesity is one of those things. Of course, that doesn't mean being breastfed means you'll be skinny or being formula fed means you'll be fat -- we all know that's not always the case. But the likelihood or the risk factor paints a clear picture. I wish their focus weren't JUST obesity, though, but many of the other health issues around breastfeeding, such as significantly reducing the rates of SIDS, for example, but hey, I'll take what we can get! And by the way, there are 24 more Baby Friendly hospitals in the US than last time I mentioned the program last September. Yay! It's about time hospitals start putting policies in place that really put breastfeeding in a place of importance.

Do you have Kaiser insurance? Was the hospital you birthed at "Baby-Friendly"?


Image via Laura Slomkowski

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