Idaho Perinatal Project

Posted:08/15/2011

Lack of breastfeeding in the U.S. costs $2.2 billion annually in medical expenses for diseases that could have been prevented

ATLANTA, GA – Lack of breastfeeding in the U.S. costs $2.2 billion annually in medical expenses for diseases that could have been prevented, says a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In its recent study, “Vital Signs: Hospital Practices to Support Breastfeeding,” the CDC analyzed data it collected between 2007 and 2009 from U.S. obstetric hospitals and birth centers and concluded that “most U.S. hospitals have policies and practices that do not conform to international recommendations for best practices in maternity care and interfere with mothers’ abilities to breastfeed.” The CDC also found that less than 5 percent of infants are born in Baby-Friendly hospitals, a global designation that indicates best practices in maternity care to support breastfeeding mothers.

Other study findings include:

  • 93 percent of facilities offer prenatal breastfeeding education.
  • 89 percent of facilities teach breastfeeding techniques.
  • 82 percent of facilities teach mothers how to identify feeding cues.
  • 14 percent of facilities have model breastfeeding policies.
  • 22 percent limit breastfeeding supplement use.
  • 27 percent of facilities support mothers with breastfeeding post-discharge.

“Hospitals providing maternity care should adopt evidence-based practices to support breastfeeding. Public health agencies can set quality standards for maternity care and help hospitals achieve Baby-Friendly designation. Because nearly all births in the United States occur in hospitals, improvements in hospital policies and practices could increase rates of exclusive and continued breastfeeding nationwide, contributing to improved child health, including lower rates of obesity,” the report continued.

According to the CDC, increasing the proportion of mothers who breastfeed is one important way to fight childhood obesity in the U.S. because a baby's risk of becoming overweight decreases with each month of breastfeeding. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults, who suffer higher rates of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months have a decreased risk for obesity and other costly medical conditions.

“There are numerous health conditions associated with formula feeding or early discontinuation of breastfeeding,” said Cria Perrine, CDC epidemiologist. “National studies show that 80 percent of pregnant women say they want to breastfeed and 75 percent start breastfeeding. So, this is not an issue of education, it’s an issue of support.”

Because most U.S. births take place in a hospital, the CDC is targeting hospitals to increase their levels of support to help women breastfeed, said Perrine