Breastfeeding: Do hospital practices impact breastfeeding?

I am an OB nurse and see moms coming in after giving birth, totally exhausted. We keep the babies in the nursery at night and take them out for breastfeedings. Some babies are returned to the nursery after a long feeding only to remain screaming like they were when they went out. Common practice is to feed them with glucose water if they have been latching well. We never give a bottle without mom's permission. Caring for babies in the nursery gives the moms a break and a chance to recover from the trauma of delivery. Is this really so bad?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

I do believe all Health Care Professionals have the same goal in mind -- a healthy, happy mom and baby. We sometimes just work at achieving this goal in different ways.

We do need to explore why so few women are still breastfeeding in this country at six months postpartum. Of course there are many factors involved, but recent research from the University of Arizona has concluded that women are more likely to stop breastfeeding their babies prematurely (before four months of age) if any of the following occur in the hospital following the birth:

  • formula feeds
  • separate mom and baby for more than 40 percent of their stay
  • distribution of discharge packs containing free formula samples, videos or coupons from formula companies

These practices (including complementary feeds of glucose water) can undermine a new mom's best efforts to get nursing off to the best start. As you know, this is not really new information . We have known for quite some time that these practices negatively affect the breastfeeding relationship. It has been demonstrated in numerous studies.

How can we reverse this trend? Breastfeeding is not just a life style decision, it is a health care choice. Health Care Providers, beginning early in pregnancy, need to take on the responsibility of properly informing mothers of the benefits conferred by breastfeeding (both to them and their baby.) This recommendation to breastfeed needs to be followed by skilled help to overcome any barriers to a good nursing relationship.

Wishing you the best in your work with new moms and babies!

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