When a pregnant woman chooses a hospital that she wants to deliver her baby, it is important to know, which one has the UNICEF/WHO baby-friendly designation. This honor is presented to those American hospitals that follow 10 steps to promote and encourage breastfeeding. In the Seattle area, there are only three official baby-friendly medical facilities: Evergreen in Kirkland, University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, and Tacoma General Hospital.
When a hospital receives this designation, it has to agree not to give babies anything other than breast milk, unless medically necessary. For this reason, hospitals cannot accept free samples of formula offered by manufacturers. Research shows that establishing a breastfeeding routine is critical in the first days and even hours of a newborn’s life. Introducing formula so that the mother can rest is not supported by data offered by the Journal of Perinatal Education. Multiple studies prove that rooming in with infants is the best practice for mother and baby.
In addition, Surgeon General’s “Call to Action” emphasizes the role that medical professionals play in the conversation about the benefits of breastfeeding. The report urges more hospitals to get the UNICEF’s baby-friendly designation. A group Public Citizen has also created an online petition that calls on formula manufacturers to stop distributing free formula samples in all U.S. hospitals.
Staff at baby-friendly hospitals will help new mother to establish a healthy breastfeeding routine and provide her with continuing support after she leaves the hospital. Lactation consultants are available at the hospital and can be contacted after mother and baby go home. At the end of the stay the mother will get breast pump accessories, which are expensive, but not free formula samples, which could translate into thousands of dollars spent in the first year of the baby’s life. So, when formula manufacturers claim they are just being good samaritans and offering mothers a choice, bottom line is all they care about. Centuries of experience and scientific data show that the health of baby and mother are tied to breastfeeding. It significantly lowers the chance of uterus and breast cancers later in life for the mother. Like all mammals, human babies were meant to receive mother’s milk, and it is the best food for them.
By committing to breastfeeding early on, a woman insures that she and her baby are healthy and happily bond for the rest of their lives. Formula should be the last resort, not a convenience choice. It is wise to choose a hospital that supports these ideals.