The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ), with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is leading a nationwide effort in close partnership with Baby-Friendly USA to help hospitals improve maternity care and increase the number of Baby-Friendly hospitals in the United States. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers. For infants, breastfeeding decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. Breastfeeding also decreases their risk of becoming obese later in childhood. Short- and long-term benefits to mothers who breastfeed include decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.
The hospital experience strongly influences the mothers’ infant feeding decisions. Baby-Friendly hospitals use the bundle of evidence-based care processes that most effectively support all mothers to be able to carry out their own infant feeding intentions and decisions. Although breastfeeding rates are higher and disparities in these rates are virtually eliminated in Baby-Friendly hospitals, less than six percent of US births occur in these facilities.
Boston Medical Center (BMC) was one of the earliest adopters of the improved maternity care practices that are at the center of this project. Staff members at BMC worked hard for many years to make these changes, and their work was rewarded when they become the first hospital in Massachusetts to achieve Baby-Friendly designation in 1999. Learn more about BMC's journey to Baby-Friendly.
Senior hospital administrators play a critical role in enabling and supporting change. To better understand the role of leaders in supporting this work, please read a blog post from Steve Littleson, President of Jersey Shore University Medical Center, in which he discusses the importance of his hospital's pursuit of Baby-Friendly status.
A standard part of the learning collaborative process is the Expert Meeting, in which the lead organization receives advice on best practices and project goals from a carefully selected panel of topic experts. The Expert Meeting for the Best Fed Beginnings project was held on March 7, 2012. Learn more about the meeting and what was discussed.
Reports & Articles
- Majority of U.S. Hospitals Do Not Fully Support Breastfeeding (CDC Press Release, 8/20/2011)
- Hospital Support for Breastfeeding--Preventing Obesity Begins In Hospitals (CDC Vital Signs Report, 8/2011)
- Hospital Practices to Support Breastfeeding (CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 8/2/2011)
- A Policy Update on California Breastfeeding and Hospital Performance from the California WIC Association and the UC Davis Human Lactation Center