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Hospital Failure to Support Breast-Feeding Sparks Child Obesity

Aug. 2 (Bloomberg) -- Most U.S. hospitals don’t have programs to support mothers who want to breast-feed, leading to higher risks of childhood obesity and disease, a report found.

Fewer than 4 percent of hospitals provide the necessary programs and policies to help mothers breast-feed babies in the first days after birth, according to the study published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the journal Vital Signs. Nearly 75 percent of hospitals don’t follow-up with mothers after birth, the study said.

Breast-feeding for nine months reduces a baby’s chance of becoming overweight by more than 30 percent, according to the report. Low breast-feeding rates add an estimated $2.2 billion a year to medical costs related to obesity, diabetes and respiratory infections, the study said.

“Those first few hours and days that a mom and her baby spend learning to breast-feed are critical,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a statement. “Hospitals need to better support breast-feeding, as this is one of the most important things a mother can do for her newborn.”

The report, based on data from a CDC survey on maternity practices in hospitals, rated the facilities based on 10 criteria. “Baby-friendly” hospitals had practices such as written policies on breast-feeding, helping mothers initiate breast-feeding and allowing mothers and infants to remain together for 24 hours a day.

“In the United States most women want to breast-feed, and most women start,” said Ursula Bauer, director of the Atlanta-based CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in the release. “But without hospital support many women have a hard time continuing to breast-feed, and they stop early.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Oliver Renick in New York at orenick@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale in New York at rgale5@bloomberg.net.

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