A new set of recommendations for hospitals to encourage breastfeeding released this week by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could have moms and babies spending more time in the hospital together and could keep pacifiers away from newborns.
The department released the new recommendations Nov. 13 during a press conference at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville.
Officials hope the recommendations will help hospitals support and encourage mothers who are able to and who want to breastfeed their babies. Recommendations include allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day while they are in the hospital, giving babies no artificial pacifiers, and referring mothers to breastfeeding support groups on discharge from the hospital.
Babies who are breastfed have fewer respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, a press release from the department said, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies receive breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life.
Breastfeeding for six months is not always easy, though.
“Some babies latch right on, and it’s terrific, and it’s wonderful, and it’s like the Madonna picture,” said Dr. Dana Silver, who spoke on behalf of the Maryland chapter of the AAP. “But for a lot of moms ... it takes some learning.”
Frances Phillips, deputy secretary of public health services with the department, said hospitals influence how new mothers will approach breastfeeding.
“It’s a learned behavior, by both the mom and the baby, and there’s nothing more important than a nurturing environment with a coach and some dedicated cheerleaders to get you through some of those humps,” Phillips said.
The process of implementing the new standards is voluntary. The department is asking Maryland hospitals to complete a self-assessment and in December, commit to either meeting the state recommendations or getting certified by Baby-Friendly USA, which advocates for similar hospital practices.
Terry Francis, director of perinatal services at Shady Grove, said the hospital has been working toward Baby Friendly certification for the past year and a half. She said staff have been supportive of the changes, but such a culture change is not easy.
Bridget Pieroni, a nurse at Shady Grove who works in labor and delivery, said the biggest challenge to mothers who want to breastfeed their babies is going back to work. Not all workplaces allow time and space for women to pump breast milk every few hours, and then the milk must be refrigerated.
“You have to have somewhere to go, you have to be allowed to go do it, you have to have the time to go do it, you have to have a storage facility — so yeah. It’s a lot,” she said.
Read more about the recommendations at fha.dhmh.maryland.gov/mch/SitePages/hospital-bf-policy.aspx