How we can help doctors and hospitals feel confident with “breast is best”

By |2018-03-14T11:50:33+00:00June 15th, 2017|

The term “breast is best” sums up exactly what leading medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) believe: babies who receive breast milk as opposed to formula reap substantial benefits.

An increased focus on breastfeeding, as evidenced by more hospitals becoming certified as Baby-Friendly and the Joint Commission Perinatal Care measure tracking exclusive breastfeeding rates in newborn babies, means that the word is getting out about the importance of breast milk.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched in 1991, with the goal of educating maternity staff in hospitals to better support breastfeeding for their moms and babies. This program includes intensive education and training for all maternity staff, and it sets forth guidelines that aim to increase breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity while in the hospital.

For example, hospitals that are designated Baby-Friendly are not allowed to dispense free formula packets for moms to take home, and they are to encourage such breastfeeding-promoting practices such as rooming-in, skin-to-skin, and feeding on demand.

Obstetric providers have a responsibility to support their expectant and new moms when it comes to breastfeeding, as we know that women who receive antenatal breastfeeding education have higher rates of breastfeeding initiation and longer breastfeeding duration. However, with the range of information that needs to be covered over the course of a pregnancy where short 15-minute office visits are the norm, it may seem daunting to add another topic—comprehensive, accurate, and evidence-based breastfeeding education—to the doctor or midwife’s To-Do list.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding is poorly taught both in medical school and residency, despite the fact that it is the biological norm and has so many health benefits both for Mom and baby. Because of this, many obstetric providers gloss over or don’t address the topic at all, out of fear of not knowing how to counsel women or with the thought that the topic is better handled by a nurse or lactation consultant. This is too bad, since studies have shown that women who receive breastfeeding education from a physician are much more likely to initiate breastfeeding than women whose doctors ignore the topic.

Having access to comprehensive, evidence-based resources can bridge this gap quite nicely for the obstetrician who wants to do better by his pregnant patients but isn’t quite sure how. Bundoo’s week-by-week pregnancy emails and articles and The Wellness Network’s video library provide information that an obstetrician or midwife can count on to set up their patients for breastfeeding success.

Topics include the benefits of breastfeeding, how to get breastfeeding off to a good start, managing breastfeeding complications, why initiating early skin-to-skin and rooming-in are important, what feeding on demand looks like, how to do hand expression, figuring out pumping, and many more.

Hospitals ultimately have a vested interest in their newborns’ rates of exclusive breast milk feeding, as seen by the Joint Commission Perinatal Care Measure specific to this. They can also benefit from our articles and videos to help new parents fill in knowledge gaps and supplement lactation consultant support while in the hospital.

There are so many myths out there when it comes to breastfeeding, and consistent messaging and education is key when it comes to helping families figure out fact from fiction. New parents who see the same messages carry over from the obstetrics office to the postpartum floor will have higher confidence in their providers, and ultimately themselves, when it comes to their ability to nurse their baby. This translates into more breastfeeding success, which is best for everyone.

 

References

  1. Specifications Manual for Joint Commission National Quality Measures. Perinatal care measure-05: Exclusive breast milk feeding considering mother’s choice.
  2. Baby-friendly hospital initiative. World Health Organization.
  3. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol #14. Breastfeeding-friendly physician’s office: Optimizing care for infants and children, revised 2013.