MONDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Although most American women
plan on breast-feeding their newborns, fewer than one-third of
those who expected to exclusively breast-feed for three months or
more met that goal, according to new research.
The biggest factor in whether or not a woman met her
breast-feeding goal appeared to be whether a baby received
supplemental feedings while in the hospital.
"We found that mothers able to exclusively breast-feed through
their hospital stay were more able to meet their breast-feeding
intentions," said the study's lead author, Cria Perrine, an
epidemiologist in the division of nutrition, physical activity and
obesity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Results of the study were released online June 4 and are
scheduled to be published in the July issue of
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of
Pediatrics recommend that babies be breast-fed exclusively for the
first six months of their lives. Previous research has found that
only 35 percent of American infants are breast-fed exclusively for
three months, and only 15 percent for the recommended six months,
according to background information in the study.
In an attempt to increase the number of U.S. babies being
breast-fed, UNICEF and WHO created a new program called the
Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. The initiative identifies 10
steps hospitals can take to help encourage and support new mothers
who are trying to breast-feed their newborns. Some of the steps
include: Let pregnant women know about the benefits of
breast-feeding.Help new mothers begin breast-feeding within an hour after the
birth.Teach mothers how to breast-feed and how to maintain their milk
supply if they are separated from their babies.Don't give infants any supplemental feedings (unless medically
necessary).Allow mothers and infants to stay together 24 hours a day
(referred to as "rooming in").Encourage breast-feeding on demand.
To see whether or not a mother's intention to breast-feed
affected her success, and if Baby-Friendly hospital practices
played a role in exclusive breast-feeding, the researchers reviewed
data from the 2005 to 2007 Infant Feeding Practices Study II.
The investigators found 1,457 women who intended to breast-feed
exclusively. From this group, more than 85 percent said they
planned on breast-feeding exclusively for three months or more.
Yet, only about 32 percent achieved this goal.
Women who were married, and women who had more than one child
were more likely to achieve their breast-feeding goals. Women who
smoked or were obese were less likely to achieve their
breast-feeding goals. Women who intended to breast-feed exclusively
for longer durations were also less likely to meet their goal,
according to the study results.
Starting breast-feeding within an hour of birth, and not giving
the baby supplemental feedings or a pacifier were associated with
meeting breast-feeding goals. However, after the researchers
adjusted the data to account for all of the hospital's practices,
the only statistically significant factor that led to success was
not giving babies supplemental feedings. Mothers of babies who
weren't given extra feedings were 2.3 times more likely to achieve
their breast-feeding intentions, reported the study authors.
"Breast-feeding needs to be established in the first few days,
and if you don't get started then, you probably are not going to be
able to stick with it. Our study shows that we're not supporting
mothers as much as we need to," said Perrine, who added that each
year, more and more hospitals are becoming Baby-Friendly
"This study is very consistent with everything else that's been
said on breast-feeding, and the Baby-Friendly practices really make
a dramatic difference in breast-feeding initiation and duration,"
said Dr. Ruby Roy, an assistant professor of pediatrics at LaRabida
Children's Hospital in Chicago.
"Making what we think of as simple changes really can have a
profound impact on what moms are able to do," she said. For
example, not giving supplemental feeding is a "big deal," according
to Roy. "The practice of supplemental feedings usually means that
mom and baby are separated for long periods of time, and that's not
good for breast-feeding. It means that someone might not be paying
attention to when the baby wants to be fed, and by the time baby
gets to mom, the baby is so hungry that he or she is wailing." And,
starting a breast-feeding session with a baby who's ravenous and
crying isn't the best situation for success.
Roy also said that many women don't ask questions if
breast-feeding hurts. Instead, they may just stop. "Pain is not
normal. It means something is wrong. Get help. And, expect that
breast-feeding is going to take more time and energy than you
expect," advised Roy.
Once breast-feeding has been established, Roy said that many
mothers lose confidence in breast-feeding when their child is going
through a growth spurt. They think they've lost their milk supply
when, in fact, the baby has just drained the milk because he or she
is feeding more to fuel growth.
Learn more about breast-feeding from the
American Academy of Pediatrics.