5 Ways MDs Can Help Moms Breastfeed

Using human milk for human babies just makes sense, but the health impact is mind numbing. According to the Surgeon General, $13 billion would be saved annually in the U.S. if 90% of women followed guidelines to exclusively breastfeed for six months.

We have a long way to go to get there.

How do we get from the current 14.1% exclusive breastfeeding rate at 6 months to anywhere close to 90 percent? The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a set of maternity care practices that improves breastfeeding outcomes. It is recognized by the Joint Commission, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Surgeon General and others as the means to improve maternity care.

Baby-Friendly is not just for hospitals. Increasing breastfeeding rates is a community-wide issue and requires involvement from everyone. Here are 5 ways physicians, midwives and their staff can help:

  1. Don’t be neutral.  The American Academy of Pediatrics calls breastfeeding the “normative standard” for infant feeding, stating, “Thus, infant feeding should not be considered a lifestyle choice but rather as a basic health issue.”
  2. Stay current.  Your own breastfeeding experience or what you learned in medical school, nursing school or from a book just a few years ago is probably outdated. The BFHI requires all physicians and midwives who have privileges at a Baby-Friendly hospital receive 3 hours of continuing medical education (CME) in breastfeeding.
  3. Provide breastfeeding education to all patients.  Our obligation as health care providers is to help patients make healthy choices. Ideally this education will take place in the 1st trimester and will include:
    • Importance of breastfeeding
    • Importance of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months
    • Basic breastfeeding management
    • Importance of skin-to-skin contact
    • Rooming-in
    • Risks of supplements while breastfeeding in the first 6 months
  1. Remove formula promotional items from your office (pens, signs, badge holders, flyers, etc.). Women are inundated with formula advertising. There is no place for it in a medical office where breastfeeding is regarded as the “normative standard” of infant feeding.
  2. Support those who choose to formula feed by teaching the importance of proper formula preparation, the benefits of holding their babies during feeding and the benefits of holding babies skin-to-skin, especially right after birth.

About blogtobabyfriendly

blogtobabyfriendly is written by Amy Murray, a Childbirth Unit nurse with a touch of earth muffin crunch. A childbirth educator and IBCLC, she's been a breastfeeding advocate all her adult life, believing that if our bodies make milk, it just makes good sense to feed it to our babies. blogtobabyfriendly is her hospital's journey to Baby-Friendly designation. Click to get email updates on new blog posts. Our desire is to learn, share, and learn more.
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6 Responses to 5 Ways MDs Can Help Moms Breastfeed

  1. Gemma Regan (Childbirth Educator) says:

    Thanks for the specific info on HOW physicians/staff can help moms. BREASTFEEDING really is a BASIC HEALTH ISSUE and $13 BILLION is a lot of money!! At such a time of health care crisis in our country – we need to act on this fact!! ~ I work in a Family Practice Resident Clinic and I don’t think the physicians realize what an IMPACT they have on our patients when it comes to breastfeeding. We must help mothers to START, and then help them to CONTINUE breastfeeding by giving them the proper tools, resources, and education. Our babies deserve the best start in life and our mommies deserve to know the truth that breast is best. Yet, simply telling them is not enough. We must empower them to be successful by giving them the CONFIDENCE that they can indeed provide their babies the very best nutrition. Such confidence in our own motives and kind mentoring will move us all closer to the goal. We do have a long way to go – but the journey is so worth it! The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) set of maternity care practices WILL improve breastfeeding outcomes and this generation as well as future generations will reap the benefits! That makes me smile : )

  2. Cindy Werner says:

    Bravo Amy!!
    Very well written and so true!
    Doctors have such a profound impact on parenting choices!

  3. bernice770 says:

    I’m in my 2nd trimester (for my 2nd pregnancy) and I can tell you that number 3 really would be helpful. Women are given a bag of goodies and information at the first (or nearly first) prenatal appointment. That bag of goodies has included formula samples for both my pregnancies (different care providers) but absolutely NO literature/information regarding breastfeeding. It really is something that needs to be talked about early on because breastfeeding is hard and receiving education and support early on really does make a difference.
    At my appointment this time the nurse was double checking my formula sample to make sure it wouldn’t be expired when the baby was born. I told her I didn’t need the formula because I wouldn’t use it, she said “Oh, it’s just a small bottle, you’d be surprised how handy it is just to have this little bit to help you out, even if you choose to breastfeed.” I was floored! Please, medical professionals, encourage exclusive breastfeeding. If a mother isn’t even receiving encouragement, education, and support from their medical professional, why would they feel the need to put in the hard work needed to exclusively breastfeed? Not all mothers take the time to research on their own why breastfeeding is so important.

  4. Claire says:

    The weight that even the smallest comment has, when it comes from a health care professional, should make us examine our bias’ and speak very, very carefully! When I think of the marketing to be found in Physicians’ and Midwives’ offices, I think of all those attractive magazines. There is sooo much advertising aimed at new moms! And lots and lots of formula ads in those mags in the waiting room. What can we do about that?

  5. Jenna Fischer says:

    I took my 13 month old baby to his 1 year check up with our family doctor today and we talked about how I am still breastfeeding. My son is thriving and happy so he encouraged me to continue and reassured me that “extended” breastfeeding was biologically normal even if not culturally normal. It is so nice to have positivity towards breastfeeding – especially after the first year – from a medical professional. Also, our doctor’s office does not advertise or give out formula samples and they encourage and support breastfeeding, which has been wonderful.

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