“You were due on July 3rd, but you didn’t come out until 10:23 p.m. on July 5 and they kept us in the hospital for three days before we could take you home. You were so beautiful and we were so happy to have our little girl.”
That’s a recount of my mother telling me about the day I was born. That was 25 years ago and I imagine others born 20+ years ago would have a similarly phrased narration of the day they were born – that they stayed with their mother in the hospital for a few days after birth.
The focus used to be on keeping the mother and baby in the hospital, together, to make sure there were no complications. Nowadays, I hear all the time that mother and child leave the hospital ‘later that afternoon’ or ‘the very next morning.’ It’s almost a competition or some ultimate prize to see how soon after giving birth you can leave the hospital.
While it’s great that modern medicine advancements have allowed for better delivery procedures and for doctors to know, more instantaneously, the health of the mother and newborn, the focus on getting mother and child out of the hospital and into their own home may actually be serving as a long-term detriment to both.
According to a new government report, “Less than 4 percent of U.S. hospitals offer the full range of support services that new mothers need to master breastfeeding.”
This push to get mothers and newborns out of the hospitals and into the comfort of their own homes doesn’t lend itself to proper and adequate preparation for women to breastfeed.
Womenshealth.gov lists many benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and child that include: helping your child fight diseases; lowering your child’s risk for developing diabetes, asthma, leukemia and obesity; cost-effectiveness; developing a special bond with your child; lowering the mother’s risk for developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes and postpartum depression; and leads to working mothers missing less days because of their child getting sick.
In the Vital Signs report released Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the team analyzed data from the CDC national survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care and found that only 14 percent of hospitals have a written breastfeeding policy.
Furthermore, the report showed that in nearly 80 percent of hospitals, healthy breast-feeding infants are given formula when it is not medically necessary; only one-third of hospitals practice "rooming in", in which mothers stay with their newborns 24 hours a day; and nearly 75 percent of hospitals do not provide necessary breastfeeding support to mothers and babies when they leave the hospital.
Mothers – especially first-time mothers – need proper resources and guidance to get them into a breastfeeding routine.
"Hospitals play a vital role in supporting a mother to be able to breastfeed," CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said in a CDC news release. "Those first few hours and days that a mom and her baby spend learning to breastfeed are critical. Hospitals need to better support breastfeeding, as this is one of the most important things a mother can do for her newborn. Breastfeeding helps babies grow up healthy and reduces health-care costs."
“Low rates of breastfeeding in the U.S. result in $2.2 billion in additional medical costs per year. Babies who are fed formula and stop breastfeeding early have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections. They also require more doctor visits, hospitalizations and prescriptions,” according to the CDC.
So while the thought of taking your newborn home as quickly as possible may be an attractive motive, do yourself a favor and stick around the hospital a few more days – especially if that means getting proper breastfeeding guidance and asking all the questions you need.
Support for Breast Feeding Found Lacking in Many U.S. Hospitals
World Breastfeeding Week
Women’s Health.gov – Breastfeeding
National Institutes of Health
Reviewed August 3, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle
Bailey Mosier is a freelance journalist living in Orlando, Florida. She received a Masters of Journalism from Arizona State University, played D-I golf, has been editor of a Scottsdale-based golf magazine and currently contributes to GolfChannel.com. She aims to live an active, healthy lifestyle full of sunshine and smiles.