Breast milk is often referred to as the perfect food for babies for health, social and economic reasons. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center recently discussed these benefits as DHMH announced its new Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations for Maryland hospitals. The policies are designed to encourage and support breastfeeding for newborns.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likeliness of health problems in babies, including a reduced risk of:

  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),
  • Obesity,
  • Diabetes,
  • Respiratory infections,
  • Ear infections,
  • And skin allergies.

Breastfeeding has also been associated with a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers in the mother.

The decision to breastfeed is a personal one, and a mother should not be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed. If she does, however, it is important to support mothers to breastfeed successfully.

Most breastfeeding begins in the hospital. So how will hospitals help you get started? The Maryland Hospital Breastfeeding Policy Recommendations call for hospitals to:

  1. Maintain a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in 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 newborn 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 unrestricted breastfeeding.
  9. Give no artificial 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 clinic.

The Birth Center at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center currently implements all ten recommendations. To learn more about breastfeeding and DHMH’s new policies, read here.

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