Breastfeeding rates up; UT could do more to help new moms

In Utah, the CDC says, just over one-third of babies are breast-fed for their first year of life. 

SALT LAKE CITY – This is World Breastfeeding Week. The health benefits of breastfeeding for babies and their moms have been well publicized, but a new report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says doctors and hospitals could be doing more to help new mothers stick with it.

According to the report, 77 percent of new moms start out breastfeeding but only 27 percent still are still doing so a year later. It suggests hospital maternity-room policies could set the tone, with immediate skin contact between mom and baby after birth, and not whisking infants off to a separate nursery.

Those are big changes for some hospitals, said Dr. Leissa Roberts, assistant dean of faculty practice at the University of Utah’s College of Nursing.

“Not quite 50 percent of Utah hospitals have rooming-in for moms and babes,” she said. “The definition for ‘rooming in’ is, does the baby spend at least 23 out of 24 hours in the presence of his mother?”

Utah is doing better than the national averages, according to the report. About 64 percent of Utah babies still are being breast-fed at three months of age – but by six months, that number drops to 37 percent. Roberts said that points to a need for more support for breastfeeding mothers, starting with those who are convinced at first that they plan to bottle-feed.

“Typically when women say they’re not planning on breastfeeding, it’s for a reason that’s very manageable,” she said. “When you sit down and when you work through whatever the issue or reason is, nine times out of 10, women will end up saying, ‘You know what? I really want to try this, because I think it’s the best thing for my baby.’ “

Benefits of breastfeeding for babies include a lower risk of SIDS, protection from illnesses and improved cognitive development. For moms, the benefits include a lower risk of some types of cancer and less likelihood of postpartum depression.

The CDC report card is at <a href=”http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013BreastfeedingReportCard.pdf” target=”parent”>cdc.gov</a>.

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