Breast milk is the optimal food
for infants. Babies who are fed formula or stop breastfeeding early have
higher risks of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, and
sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and tend to require more doctor
visits and hospitalizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics
recommends that babies receive nothing but breast milk for the first 6
months of life and continue breastfeeding for at least one year. While
breastfeeding initiation is the essential first step, duration and
exclusivity are key to obtaining the myriad of benefits to public health
and society provided through breastfeeding.
A key to helping new mothers
initiate breastfeeding successfully is support in the hospital in the
first hours and days after birth. Recognizing this, in November 2012,
DHMH encouraged all birthing hospitals in the State to become “Maryland
Best Practices Hospitals,” by either attaining Baby Friendly
certification through the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative
(BFHI), or by meeting the ten criteria contained in the Maryland Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations
to become a “Maryland Best Practices Hospital.”
Maryland Best Practices
designation is based on meeting the ten criteria contained in the
Maryland Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations. These
recommendations are based on the WHO/UNICEF Ten Steps to Successful
Breastfeeding, which include evidence-based hospital practices that
increase rates of breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity
for healthy, full term infants whose mothers have chosen to breastfeed
them. These recommendations are guidelines for birthing hospitals to
follow in a voluntary quality improvement process.
So far, the state has received
letters of commitment from 12 of Maryland’s 35 birthing hospitals. Those
12 have committed to either becoming Baby-Friendly or meet Maryland’s
4 hospitals have signed Letters of Commitment to become Baby-Friendly.
Calvert Memorial, Howard County General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital
8 hospitals have signed Letters of Commitment to meet Maryland Best-Practices:
Washington Medical Center, Easton (Memorial Hospital at Easton),
Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Bayview, Montgomery
Medical Center, Sinai Hospital, Upper Chesapeake Medical Center,
DHMH is encouraged by this robust
participation so far, and we hope that all birthing hospitals in the
state will commit to this important initiative.
For more information about the benefits of breastfeeding, visit http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/mch/SitePages/bf_home.aspx. Find resources for breastfeeding women at http://phpa.dhmh.maryland.gov/mch/SitePages/bf_resources.aspx.