A new report, “One Hospital at a Time,” co-authored by the California WIC Association (CWA) and UC Davis Human Lactation Center’s, highlights the exclusive breastfeeding “gap” which is greatest in hospitals serving low-income mothers and babies. The report shows that by improving policies, hospitals can dramatically increase their breastfeeding rates. Exclusive breastfeeding means babies are fed breast milk only.
The “One Hospital at a Time; Overcoming Barriers to Breastfeeding” report’s findings come on the heels of the Surgeon General’s “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding,” urging a nationwide effort to remove barriers to breastfeeding. The Surgeon General strongly encourages hospitals and healthcare systems to adopt evidence-based practices as outlined in the “Baby-Friendly” hospital initiative.
To achieve breastfeeding success for low-income mothers and babies, CWA is actively working to encourage more hospitals to become “Baby-Friendly” and assist mothers in breastfeeding their infants’ right after birth. Evidence shows that hospitals that have implemented model policies around infant feeding - such as the “Baby-Friendly” policies experience higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding among all income levels and ethnicities.
Nearly 90 percent of California mothers have made the decision to exclusively breastfeed, yet only half are breastfeeding exclusively upon hospital discharge. Breastfeeding success is dependant on the support of hospital staff and standards of care within the hospital during those first critical 24 to 72 hours. If exclusive breastfeeding is undermined in the hospital it is next to impossible for mothers to sustain exclusive breastfeeding when they go home.
“The vast majority of low-income mothers we serve in the WIC program are motivated and supported by WIC to breastfeed their newborns, but many of them are giving birth in hospitals with such poor policies that breastfeeding is being systematically undermined,” says Laurie True, Executive Director of California WIC Association. She goes on to say, “This is not only a healthy equity issue, it’s a social justice issue.”