Mountain View, CA - February 24, 2011 - The Women's Hospital at El Camino Hospital had the highest rate of exclusive and partial breastfeeding by new mothers of any hospital in the state for 2009, according to a study recently released by the UC-Davis Human Lactation Center and the California WIC Association. The study shows that 97.4 percent of new mothers were breastfeeding exclusively when they went home, with 99 percent of babies being breastfed at least partially. That compared to an average of 73.1 percent exclusive breastfeeding in all Santa Clara County hospitals.
According to the study, Hospital policies play a pivotal role in whether new mothers successfully breastfeed. "For many women, assistance in the hospital may be the only help they receive," said Debbie Groth, the Mountain View director of maternal child health services at The Women's Hospital at El Camino Hospital. "Moms can be discouraged or even prevented from breastfeeding if hospitals don't provide a supportive environment. To support breastfeeding, we have exceptionally well-trained nurses, certified lactation consultants for anyone who requests help, and breastfeeding classes and support groups. Following best practices, we avoid separating mothers from their babies and avoid supplemental formula unless it is a medical necessity. Our goal is to ensure the healthiest possible start for our newborns."
The hospital offers a number of programs to assist parents, both pre- and post-delivery, including a pre-delivery class designed to optimize successful breastfeeding. These are widely promoted by obstetricians who practice at the nonprofit community hospital. (See our information about breastfeeding preparation classes.)
Dr. Barbi Phelps-Sandall, an obstetrician who is the Chief of El Camino Hospital's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at its Mountain View campus, said, "Our obstetricians are dedicated to seeing patients all the way through healthy pregnancies by advising expectant parents on diet, weight maintenance, and careful monitoring to reduce the chance of preterm delivery. Of course, that includes breastfeeding, because breastfeeding contributes significantly to the health of both the infant and the mother."
The UC Davis/WIC study confirms the importance of hospital policies and support for breastfeeding. "Hospitals with high rates of exclusive breastfeeding have adopted policies ensuring that all mothers are supported in their infant feeding decisions," the report states.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breast-feeding for at least the first six months. Studies have shown that breast-feeding newborns can reduce their risk for infection and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, as well as lower the mothers' risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Studies also show that breast-feeding dramatically reduces the risk of developing childhood obesity.
"Breastfeeding starts in Labor and Delivery during the first hour of life when possible," said Groth. "Our nurses are extremely skilled at helping to initiate it. While not every woman is able to nurse her newborn, we help in every way possible to create an atmosphere where breast-feeding is encouraged and assisted," Groth said. "We recognize that successful breastfeeding has a lifelong positive health impact on newborns and their mothers."