According to a recent study, U.S.hospitals nowadays are more successful in promoting breast-feeding, but more progress is still needed.
The findings were published on Tuesday in the journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study surveyed approximately 2,700 hospitals, and it was determined that in recent years almost twice as many medical institutions have implemented a majority of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding initiative.
These international guidelines are meant to boost support for breastfeeding, before, during and after an expectant mother’s hospital stay.
According to federal health officials,back in 2007 just 29% of the hospitals in the United States had adopted most of the breastfeeding standards, whereas by 2013 the percentage had leaped to 54%.
Also, 65% of medical establishments in 2013 encouraged women to breastfeed within an hour after birth, a significant increase from 2007 when the percentage was at 44%.
Nevertheless, the CDC reports that health centers should be even more diligent in their support of this program.
Approximately 4 million American babies are born every year, but a staggering 86% of them don’t benefit from an entirely nurturing environment where the Ten Steps initiative is fully operational.
For instance, just 26% of all hospitals ensure that healthy infants are fed breast milk exclusively. As guidelines specify, alternatives like formula and water should replace milk just when health issues demand it.
Moreover, just 45% of maternity clinics keep mothers and infants together in order to promote breastfeeding, and only a third of medical centers provide follow-up support to the mothers after leaving hospital.
According to officials, all the measures included in the plan are essential for the well-being of the infant and the mother, in order to provide them with a good start in their journey together through life.
“Ideally, we would like every birth hospital in this country to adopt all of the Ten Steps and become “baby friendly”, explained CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges mothers to feed their babies using only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. It also advises that for an additional period of 6 months, breast milk should be part of the infant’s diet.
In spite of these recommendations, just 22% of all babies are given breast-milk exclusively in their first 6 months. In addition, by the time they reach this age, just half of them are still given breast-milk.
Around 60% of breast-feeding mothers wean their infants earlier than they would’ve wanted to, as a result of lack of support from the others, physical pain, difficulty feeding the baby or insufficient milk.
These factors could all be countered, provided that medical practitioners offer more assistance to mothers in the early stages. It’s precisely for this reason that the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative has been launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
Breast milk is vital to a newborn’s health, because it contains living cells, antibodies, and many other germ-fighting and health-promoting proteins and carbohydrates. Breastfed infants suffer from fewer diseases and require less hospitalization than formula-fed babies.
The active ingredients that are found in breast milk diminish the child’s risk of developing respiratory, stomach, intestinal and ear infections.
In fact, its antiviral properties are so potent that it may even kill the HIV virus and protect babies with HIV-positive mothers from acquiring the disease. Moreover, breastfed infants have a lower likelihood of obesity, asthma and sudden-death syndrome, as the CDC reports.
In addition, breast-feeding is beneficial to mothers as well, because it lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
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