By Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., I.B.C.L.C., Pediatric Alliance — North Hills Division



The CDC has reported on the latest progress in improving breastfeeding rates in the U.S.:

Although 80% of U.S. mothers begin breastfeeding their infants, many do not continue breastfeeding as long as they would like to…

Because of the documented benefits of breastfeeding to both mothers and children, and because experiences in the first hours and days after birth help determine later breastfeeding outcomes, improved hospital policies and practices could increase rates of breastfeeding nationwide, contributing to improved child health.


While there have been impressive strides forward, there is still a lot of work to be done. Breastfeeding experts devised the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding a few decades ago:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in the 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 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 birth center.


These measures greatly facilitate breastfeeding success. On the positive side, the CDC reports that the percentage of U.S. hospitals that have implemented more than half of the Ten Steps increased from 28.7% in 2007 to 53.9% in 2013. However, as of August 2015, only 9% of U.S. hospitals have been designated “Baby Friendly” (i. e., follow all ten steps).

The CDC and many state health departments will continue to strive to get more American hospitals closer to the goal of being designated “Baby Friendly”:

The national improvements in maternity care supportive of breastfeeding from 2007 to 2013 are substantial; however, more work is needed to ensure that all women have access to evidence-based maternity care policies and practices supportive of breastfeeding.



Read more from Dr. Donnelly here.