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Women who give birth at a designated baby-friendly health care facility are more likely than other women to start breast-feeding, according to a study in Pediatrics. Baby-friendly facilities are part of a global initiative to promote breast-feeding sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations.


Facilities earn the baby-friendly designation by implementing a 10-step program to encourage breast-feeding with all new mothers. The steps include:


* helping new mothers learn to nurse within 1 hour of delivery


* allowing newborns to room with their mothers at all times


* giving newborns nothing but breast milk, unless other substances are medically necessary.



In the recent study, researchers reviewed data from 29 baby-friendly U.S. facilities in 2001. They found that the breast-feeding initiation rate for new mothers at these facilities was 84%, compared with about 70% for new mothers nationwide.


For hospitals, the biggest obstacle to enacting the 10-step program was the cost of buying baby formula, which must be kept on hand for babies who can't breast-feed. Many companies supply free formula to hospitals that give all new mothers formula samples and bottles. Because baby-friendly facilities don't do this, they must pay for formula out of pocket.




Breastfeeding rates in US baby-friendly hospitals: Results of a national survey, Pediatrics, A Merewood, et al., September 2005.