I'm a little behind in blogging, but I've seen this posted a few times and think it is time to share my own thoughts especially after the post I wrote yesterday. In early October, Pediatrics published an article on the Effects of Maternity-Care Practices on Breastfeeding. The study's goal:
Our goal was to assess the impact of "Baby-Friendly" hospital practices and other maternity-care practices experienced by mothers on breastfeeding duration.
The analysis was based on the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, which surveyed just under 2000 women who initiated breastfeeding on the care they recieved and their breastfeeding success rate. The results are distrubing. Only 8.1% of women recieved care that met all six of the "Baby-Friendly" hospital practices (breastfeeding initiation within 1 hour of birth, giving only breast milk, rooming in, breastfeeding on demand, no pacifiers, fostering breastfeeding support groups) the analysis looked at. (The Baby Friendly Hospital initative actually lists ten practices, but the analysis presented looks only at six. ) The women who did not recieve care that met all six practices (almost 92% of those surveyed) were thirteen percent more likely to terminate breastfeeding early (defined as six weeks).
The results are especially disturbing when you look at the short and long-term benefits to baby and mother of breastfeeding and the positions/recommendations of medical groups. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics (who published the results in their magazine Pediatrics) recommends breastfeeding EXCLUSIVELY (no solids, only breastmilk) for the first six months and that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months (and thereafter as long as mutually desirable). The American Academy of Family Physicans positions paper says:
"If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned."
The World Health Organization:
As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production.
I've written quite extensively on my ongoing breastfeeding experience, and come December, we'll reach two years. It is upsetting to me to watch my friends and family quit early because of the "medical" advice they receive from their doctor or pediatrician. I was livid when a friend's husband told me that breastmilk was no longer needed after one. I was equally livid after watching my friend give her soon to be one son a bottle of undiluted apple juice before nap time, because her ped said that their child should be weaned by one. The worst part-- it's the same ped that my son sees, yet he has always been supportive of my continued breastfeeding. Perhaps, due to my lactivism and constant questioning, he keeps his parenting opinions to himself. (Rightfully so, because sometimes I ask just to see what he will say rather than truly wanting his advice.)
Furthermore, until women are treated with respect when receiving medical care for themselves or their children, we need to be advocates. Doctors threaten women with removal of their child and calling child protective services in order to manipulate women in to following their care guidelines when they are using out of date information (i.e. forcing formula on a jaundice baby, etc). This practice needs to end NOW. Doctors need more ongoing education on breastfeeding and its benefits. They need to provide better service, or they need to back down.