Nurses, doctors and others convene to promote breastfeeding policies in Michigan hospitals

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Nurses, doctors, lactation consultants, hospital administrators and physician leaders representing scores of birthing centers in hospitals across Michigan gathered today at the Michigan MotherBaby Summit to promote hospital policies that encourage breastfeeding.

"You can't overstate the impact hospitals have," said pediatrician and Michigan summit organizer Dr. Paula Schreck. She also serves as breastfeeding coordinator at St. John Providence Health System and medical director of St. John Outpatient Breastfeeding Clinic in Detroit.

Breastfeeding is linked to decreased risk of obesity in children, breast and ovarian cancer in mothers and type-2 diabetes in both, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

"By actively boosting breastfeeding, hospitals encourage health benefits for both mother and child that endure for years," Dr. Schreck said.

During the summit, lactation consultants and managers representing hospitals from Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor to Detroit shared successes in adopting components of the 10 steps of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, which was started in the 1990s by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. "Rooming in" - allowing mother and baby to remain together 24 hours a day - is, for instance, one of the 10 steps that dramatically increases successful breastfeeding initiation.

Participants also discussed strategies to "ban the bag," or stop the practice of giving new mothers gift bags paid for by formula companies. Even when formula itself is not included in the bags, the practice has been shown to decrease the time mothers exclusively breastfeed.

"Michigan birth center teams are dedicated to the best care for moms and infants," Dr. Schreck said. "Making breastfeeding the easy choice benefits families, and in the long run, makes our state stronger."

"At the Kellogg Foundation, we are concerned about the most vulnerable children in our society," said Diana N. Derige, program officer with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "And we are working with communities in Michigan to help give children the best opportunities for a healthy start, and to promote efforts like breastfeeding, that can help mitigate poor health outcomes."