I'll be representing the Mothers' Milk Bank of New England at one event at a local hospital. If you live in my area and are interested in becoming a donor, please stop by our table. Now that I'm donating milk I should be even better prepared to answer questions about the process!
The theme of this year's celebration is "Breastfeeding: Just 10 Steps. The Baby Friendly Way." You can find downloadable posters and other materials here.
What are the Ten Steps, and why should you care? So glad you asked!
The Ten Steps are hospital policies demonstrated by research to support breastfeeding and yield better breastfeeding rates. They are the basis of breastfeeding-friendly care in hospitals, and implementation of them can lead toward certification as a Baby Friendly Hospital. This list of policies was created by UNICEF and the WHO as part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.
The problem is that here in the U.S. we are almost guaranteed to give birth in hospitals that do not follow the Ten Steps. In fact, CDC data shows that only 8.1% of mothers deliver in hospitals that follow just six of the Ten Steps.
That's one of the reasons why we have only 94 Baby Friendly hospitals, while the rest of the world has nearly 15,000. (For fun, check out this list of the number of Baby Friendly hospitals by country. Ecuador alone has 141, and China has over 6,000.) Fortunately, the number here is increasing. We just have a long way to go.
So, if so few hospitals have adopted these policies they must be pretty radical, right? Well, here they are. And remember, less than 10% of U.S. hospitals follow at just six of these.
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice rooming-in - that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together - 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
We can do better, right? This World Breastfeeding Week, I hope we'll renew our commitment to pushing hospitals to adopt policies that support, not undermine, breastfeeding. Here's an example of how this is happening in our community.