Can hospitals help your breastfeeding plan?

Can hospitals help your breastfeeding plan?

Many women prepare a birth plan to take with them to the hospital when they have a baby; why not prepare a breastfeeding plan, too? If you’ve already had your baby, did you give any thought to what you wanted your first breastfeeding experience to be? Studies show those first 72 hours or so can make a difference in how long you end up breastfeeding. Food for thought for next baby.

Some things you might consider for your breastfeeding plan:

  • Take a breastfeeding class a month or two before your due date, especially if this is your first baby.
  • Have your baby put on your chest right after birth so you can get to know each other skin-to-skin. This is baby’s easiest transition from womb to world. Your baby may breastfeed immediately or may wait a bit. Weights, measures and such can wait or be done right there on your chest.
  • Keep your baby with you in your room all the time. Your sleep cycle will parallel your baby’s, you’ll be in tune to when he needs to eat. Baby will get to eat more often; you’ll sleep more and better.
  • Learn what your baby’s feeding cues look like: stirring, squirming, squeaking, stretching, rapid eye movement. Babies aren’t born knowing how to tell time, but you’ll begin to read his cues.
  • Feed frequently. Write down when you feed, how long & which side. This log will help you keep track of things when you’re not sure if it is day or night. After things are going well, you can quit. But if things get rocky during the first week or two, it will be invaluable to your nurses and lactation consultant.
  • Avoid pacifiers. Instead, let the baby breastfeed again. Let baby get to be a pro at one thing first, then the next.
  • If medical providers recommend supplementation, hand express some colostrum into a spoon. Hand expression may be more effective than a pump!  Request donor human milk rather than formula if further supplementation is required.
  • Sleep when your baby is sleeping, even if visitors wanted to come –  visitors can come in a few days and bring dinner along with them then!
Be a good consumer…ask for what you want. Many moms have a great experience, but don’t leave it to chance that you get a nurse or lactation consultant that you work well with.

What about the hospital staff?

How can a hospital help moms get breastfeeding started right? These practices have been proven to help mothers breastfeed longer:
  • Have policies and training in place for all hospital employees to establish a breastfeeding-is-normal environment throughout the hospital. (It’s helpful for patients to get consistent information.)
  • Help inform women before the birth about the benefits and how-to’s of breastfeeding; sponsor breastfeeding support groups for after the birth and refer moms to community resources for ongoing support.
  • While a mom is in the hospital: teach mothers how to breastfeed and initiate breastfeeding within an hour of birth; keep babies with their mothers and encourage feeding based on baby’s cues (demand); and don’t give pacifiers or bottles of formula to breastfeeding infants. (It’s rarely medically necessary.)

In fact, there is a UNICEF/WHO initiative called “Baby Friendly” awarded to hospitals which have incorporated all of their “Ten Steps to Baby Friendly” practices into their routines. In their 2011 Annual Breastfeeding Report Card, the US Centers for Disease Control reported that only 4.5% of US hospitals have earned the Baby Friendly designation. Over two-thirds of our hospitals haven’t even incorporated half of the ten steps. The 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card (no longer annual going forward) reported 7.8% of US hospitals have earned the designation.

This translates to less than 10% of Colorado babies born at hospitals with the Baby Friendly designation.

In 2008 the Colorado Department of Health initiated a program designed to raise awareness of Baby Friendly, developing the Colorado Can Do Five! It incorporated five of the Baby Friendly steps based on maternity practices already recommended in prior research. Fifty of Colorado’s 55 hospitals received training on these five practices. In 2011, thirteen of these hospitals were given awards for implementation of the Can Do Five! in their facilities. In 2012 another twenty celebrated that accomplishment.

We want to know what you think!