CDC Says Hospitals Need to Do More to Help Moms Breastfeed


According to a new report from the CDC, hospitals should be doing a lot more to help mothers start and continue to breastfeeding.  Their recommendations are couched within an argument about childhood obesity, but it’s clear that breastfeeding has a variety of positive outcomes which hospitals should be trying to promote.  Most, unfortunately, are not.

Only 4% of hospitals follow all of the World Health Organization’s “ten steps to successful breastfeeding,” and although most women start breastfeeding their babies in the week after birth, many switch to formula far before they need to.  Indeed, by 9 months, only 31% of babies are breastfeeding at all.

The CDC points out that breastfeeding can help protect against childhood obesity, which is true.  It also boosts a baby’s immune system and improves maternal health.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months and that breastfeeding continue until the baby is at least 1 year old.  This has dramatic effects on the baby’s health (and decreases post-natal healthcare costs), and mothers have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers.  It also makes the mother’s uterus contract and can help women lose weight in the months after giving birth.

As researcher Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz succinctly put it in an article for the La Leche League: “The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them.”

Breastfeeding is the way to go.  So why aren’t more people doing it?  Hospitals may be a large part of the problem, especially if they’re not giving women the tools to breastfeed their children effectively.  Breastfeeding can be difficult for women to learn, and the hours and days after childbirth are the ideal time to provide resources about its benefits, and to help women through the initial challenges.

Hospitals sometimes give babies formula or sugar-water, even though there is no nutritional reason to do so.  New mothers are also sometimes given gift bags with formula upon leaving the hospital, which sends the wrong message.  Only half of hospitals help new moms place their infant on their skin and breastfeed within the first hour after birth, which can be a crucial time in which the mother and baby bond and begin to nurse.  And very few hospitals provide breastfeeding support after families leave the hospital.

Given the fact that when mothers leave the hospital, some states (like Michigan) have no laws protecting women who breastfeed in public, hospitals should really be doing all they can to help women navigate this tricky terrain.

The CDC has a number of recommendations for ways that hospitals can begin to improve their breastfeeding services.  And, in the middle of World Breastfeeding Week, it’s a good example of how beneficial breastfeeding can be – and how much more we have to do before it becomes a culturally normalized practice in the United States.  It’s also a reminder for mothers-to-be to check out their hospital’s policies on breastfeeding, and find out what kind of support they’ll be receiving as they begin this intimate process with their newborn child.

Related Stories:

Nursing Moms Alert: Make Way for the Milk Truck! [VIDEO]

Madrid: 15-Month-Old Removed From Mother Because She Refused to Wean

Are Breastfeeding Bans Just a Way to Keep Women in the Home?

Photo from aurimas_m via flickr.


Tim Cheung
Tim C6 years ago


Ryder W.
Past Member 6 years ago

breastfed babies have a higher IQ, a stronger immune system throughout life, are generally more confident, and have fewer behavioral issues =P

Ann G.
Ann G6 years ago

Elgrit B- crawly back to your hole! I would remind you that breastfeeding, far from being "like peeing and pooping" is actually a loving time of bonding between mother and child. Unlike using the restroom in public, which has never been accepted in modern times, breastfeeding was common and accepted up until very recently. Only now, in our so-called "modern" world, is it not allowed and, were it not for breastfeeding, you would not be here, because for centuries it was the only secure way of feeding infants.

Loo Samantha
Loo sam6 years ago

thanks for the article.

Elgrit B.

Breastfeeding may be natural and normal and good for the baby and bonding, BUT FOR GOD'S SAKE DO IT IN COMPLETE PRIVACY. iT IS A PEERSONAL THING, LIKE PEEING, AND POOPING - YOU DON'T DO THAT IN PUBLIC. Breastfeeding babies comes under the same heading - personal and private. Doing this in public is sickening and appeals to men and boys who look at it as sexuality - it is not so do it IN PRIVATE.

Deborah L.
Deborah Lashever6 years ago

La Leche League is the best resource by far! It is free. It is moms--who have actually breastfed--who are trained in all aspects of the breastfeeding experience, and have led many other moms through difficulties to happy breastfeeding relationships. In other words, they know, really know, what they are talking about. At the beginning of breastfeeding, during, and weaning too!

Going to LLL meetings BEFORE you birth your child is THE BEST way to learn how to do it! There you will see moms braestfeeding and it is okay to watch them and ask questions. The leaders go through a series of basic classes like nutrition, what basic problems normally arise and how to deal with those, etc...You will be well prepared.

It is also a chance to network with other moms in your area with kids the basically the same age as yours will be! Play groups and lots of support are very common. (My kid at 21 is still best friends with kids he met in LLL meetings! And their moms and myself are still very close!) You will meet the leader whom you can call at all hours if you have problems when you are on your own.

Hospitals get lots and lots of money from formula companies to give you that sample in a gift bag (and lots of coupons too). Breastfeeding specialists have been trained in classrooms. Many are not mothers--they have never braestfed themselves. They will not be there for you after you leave the hospital. You cannot call them at 3am. You will not get a support group and the experience of o

Judy B.
Judy B.6 years ago

The hospital where I live almost shoves breastfeeding down your throat. What about a woman's right to choose here. The guilt and humiliation I know some moms exprience because of personal reasons choose not to breastfeed is very, very, sad. Let the mom choose. It is her baby. I bottlefed 3 children , none of who are obese today, 2 who have never even had an antibiotic . So please encourage new moms, they have it hard enough today. I have also seen many obessessed moms on breastfeeding drop their children off at daycare from 6 to 6 .What is the balance there?

Barbara K.
Barbara K.6 years ago

The Women's Hospital in Kansas City wanted to give my daughter and newborn baby a flu shot, the baby was a day old. On top of that they wanted to give my daughter a Tetanus shot. How was she supposed to hold and breastfeed her baby with a swollen and painful arm from the Tetanus injection? The flu shots contain mercuy and aluminum, very bad for a newborn. That would also get into the breastmilk from the mother, a double wammy.
Is the hospital for profit only now, where is the caring for the well being of mother and newborn? I am outraged as the grandmother and mother. Shame on the hospitals that promote such harmful actions !!! Mercury and aluminum can be very harmful for a newborn's brain development... and result in autism, despite of denials by the big pharma companies!!

Carole Rousis
Carole R6 years ago

It seems so natural. Breastfeeding is so important for both mother and baby. Not only is it the best food available for the first year of life but it builds a bond between mother and child. It isn't always easy, especially with the first baby, but mothers need to stick with it and not give up so easy. We want everything easy and convienant nowdays and if it isn't, too many just quit with an "oh well" attitude. Thank heaven our ancestors didn't give up so easily or many of us would not be here to complain about how hard breastfeeding is.

Miranda Lyon
Miranda Lyon6 years ago

Hard to believe that support getting started (and throughout the process) with breast feeding is still so ignored and/or resisted.