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For Release: August 18, 2011 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – (405) 271-5601

Oklahoma Hospitals Urged to Support Breastfeeding

Childhood obesity is epidemic in Oklahoma, yet one of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to help prevent obesity in her child is simply to breastfeed. A baby’s risk of becoming an overweight child is reduced with each month that baby is exclusively breastfed – meaning the baby only receives breast milk.

To help babies get a healthy start, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies only receive breast milk for the first six months of life, and continue breastfeeding, along with complementary foods, for at least one year. In Oklahoma, 68 percent of infants start breastfeeding, but by three months, only 30 percent are exclusively breastfeeding.  These rates are significantly lower for African-American infants.

Baby-friendly hospital maternity practices that support breastfeeding are crucial to a mother’s breastfeeding success following delivery. For mothers who intend to breastfeed, one in three will stop early without adequate hospital support.  According to public health officials, enhancing hospital practices to better support breastfeeding is an important strategy to improve children’s health and reduce their risk of obesity, diabetes, infections, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Several hospital breastfeeding activities are currently underway in Oklahoma as part of the statewide “Preparing for a Lifetime” initiative to reduce infant deaths, led by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), along with multiple partners.  Since 2008, the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service (MCH) has partnered with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Departments of OB/GYN and Pediatrics to provide a statewide breastfeeding hotline for nursing mothers and families, expecting parents, and health care providers.

In October 2010, this partnership expanded to create Oklahoma’s Hospital Breastfeeding Education Project, which provides Oklahoma birthing facilities assistance in assessing their current level of breastfeeding care and in identifying areas to improve. An experienced International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) offers in-person evidence-based staff trainings, individual “train the trainer” sessions, ongoing technical support, and additional staff education and resources as needed.  Since the program’s launch last year, 13 hospitals, representing 23,000 births a year, are participating, with more indicating interest. Hospitals that are interested should contact the project coordinator Becky Mannel at rebecca-mannel@ouhsc.edu.

One way a hospital can improve assistance to women is to work toward implementing the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals and Birth Centers”:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice “rooming in” – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic. 1

“Having evidence-based, supportive, maternity practices for breastfeeding as standards of care in U.S. hospitals and birth centers will help improve maternal and child health in Oklahoma and nationwide,” said OSDH MCH Chief Suzanna Dooley.

In addition to breastfeeding support, other hospital-based activities include offering hospitals and health care providers evidence-based continuing education and quality improvement support for  practices that impact Oklahoma’s infant mortality rates, including reducing preterm births,  preventing abusive head trauma (Period of PURPLE Crying® program), stopping tobacco use, and promoting safe sleep practices for infants.

For more information on breastfeeding and having healthy babies, visit these websites:

For breastfeeding support and information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, staffed by International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), call the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline toll free at 1-877-271-MILK (6455).

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