Booby Traps Series: Only one in four hospitals provides good breastfeeding support once you go home

This is the 44th in a series of posts on Booby Traps,™ made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

You remember that first drive home with your baby, right?  When we left the hospital with our first baby, my husband white-knuckled the short ride home, at a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour.  The prevailing, almost paralyzing, thought in our minds was: “Are we really qualified to take care of this little being?”

It can be scary leaving the controlled atmosphere of the hospital for many reasons, especially because breastfeeding changes so much once we’re home.  Most moms’ milk doesn’t come in until then, and what might have started as minor pain in the hospital might become toe curling at home.  Nighttime feedings may seem more scary without extra support.  And where’s that (not so great, but still) food on the tray?

Our breastfeeding journey gets off to an important and portentous start in the hospital, but the rest of the long road runs through our homes and communities.  That’s why ongoing breastfeeding support has repeatedly been shown to increase breastfeeding success.

And of course that’s why “post discharge support” is one of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and a requirement of hospitals that obtain Baby Friendly status.

The CDC collects information about hospitals’ compliance with the Ten Steps in a survey called mPINC, including post discharge support, and here’s what they report for 2009:

On the measure “Hospital routinely provides 3 modes of post-discharge support to breastfeeding mothers: physical contact, active reaching out, and referrals,” the CDC found that only 26.8% of hospitals met this benchmark.

While all of the other measures improved from 2007 to 2009, post discharge support was unchanged since 2007.

The CDC collects more detailed information about the kind of discharge support hospitals provide, and it shows that while nearly all hospitals give out a phone number and refer to WIC (above 90%), but very few offer home visits (21%), referral to outpatient breastfeeding clinics (27%) and return visit to the hospital (31%).  It also shows that the best settings on this measure are birth centers, and the worst are private (not non-profit) hospitals.

I remember a training a few years back in which a presenter said, “Hospitals assume that the community will take care of breastfeeding, and the community points to the hospitals, and moms fall through the cracks.  We all have to make it our responsibility.”  Amen.

Did your hospital provide good support to you once you left?  Phone calls, referrals to support in the community?  Did it have any impact on your breastfeeding experience?


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