Hospital Practices and Women's Likelihood of Fulfilling Their Intention to Exclusively Breastfeed

This article examines the relationship between hospital practices and rates of exclusive breast-feeding among mothers one week after delivery. The study aims to provide information to policy-makers about practices in hospitals that influence breast-feeding rates.

The authors used data from a 2006 national survey called Listening to Mothers II. A telephone survey was conducted of 1,536 mothers of singleton infants who were asked about their intention to breast-feed at the end of pregnancy; their feeding practices one week after birth; and their experience with specific hospital practices relating to feeding of infants.

Key Findings:

  • 70 percent of first-time mothers reported an intention to exclusively breast-feed, but after one week only 50 percent of first-time mothers reported exclusively breast-feeding.
  • First-time mothers at hospitals that implemented at least six or seven of the steps recommended by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative were six times more likely to exclusively breast-feed than first-time mothers at hospitals that implemented zero or one of the steps.

Hospital practices are linked to rates of exclusive breast-feeding for first-time mothers. To increase rates of exclusive breast-feeding, hospitals should adopt practices that encourage mothers to breast-feed.