Hospitals trying to be more "baby friendly"

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A new study finds more hospitals are distributing less infant formula to new moms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics study published this year shows hospitals are now recognizing the role they have in influencing new mothers to breastfeed. Many are now educating and providing more resources to moms after they give birth.

St. Agnes Medical Center is in the process of becoming a "Baby-Friendly" hospital. St. Agnes' Lactation consultant Kathryn Herrin said, "It's really all about changing how we care for babies at birth throughout the hospital stay. No separation between mom and baby, we want the baby to immediately go to mom."

It also includes educating new moms about the benefits of breastfeeding. The AAP study found in 2007, 72.6-percent of hospitals gave a formula gift bag to moms as they left the hospital. In 2013, that number dropped dramatically to 31.6-percent. The goal is to get more mothers to breastfeed their babies as long as possible. St. Agnes says it made the switch three years ago. Herrin said, "We felt as though we were maybe sending the wrong message when we start mothers breastfeeding in the hospital but then as they head out the door gave them formula."

Other Central Valley hospitals are doing the same recognizing that giving formula to new moms may imply it's just as beneficial breastmilk. Now, St. Agnes Medical Center gives women a packet about breastfeeding and lets them know about lactation resources available to them after they leave the hospital. Pediatrician and breastfeeding advocate Dr. Amy Evans say the effort is working.
Dr. Evans said, "Rates have gone up dramatically since then and there's much more of an emphasis in giving exclusive breastmilk feeds and moms are getting the message that breastfeeding is the way to go and not just formula."

Dr. Evans said giving breastmilk to your baby far outweighs any nutritional benefits formula can provide. "Breast milk has a lot of antibodies. It has a lot of immune properties in it that prevent babies from getting sick head to toe. From meningitis to eye infections to ear infections to lung infections to even urinary tract infections."

Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia, Clovis Community Medical Center, Community Regional Medical Center are also some of the local hospitals following the trend.

The California Department of Health also reports that breastfeeding has increased throughout the state in the last five years by 10-percent.
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