NYS Birthing Hospitals Will Provide Additional Breastfeeding Support Starting at Birth

Updated regulations enhance New York's efforts to encourage breastfeeding

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 19, 2016) - Women giving birth in New York's 126 birthing hospitals will receive additional encouragement and support to help them breastfeed from birth, thanks to recently updated regulations that promote breastfeeding.

Despite the well documented health benefits to infants and mothers, the percentage of newborn infants exclusively breastfed in the first few days of life is only 44% in New York, well below the national target of 70%. Highlighting the importance of breastfeeding, one top goal of the New York State Prevention Agenda, is increasing the proportion of infants who are exclusively breastfed, and reducing disparities. (https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/prevention_agenda/2013-2017/tracking_indicators.htm).

The amended regulations (Section 405.21) require hospitals to place newborns with their mothers immediately after delivery, unless contraindicated. Studies find that infants who have skin-to-skin contact with their mothers have more stable heart and breathing rates, better temperature regulation and higher glucose levels. Both mother and infant are less stressed, and breastfeeding is more likely to be initiated.

"The amended regulations help ensure that we provide the support and encouragement new mothers need to breastfeed their babies and continue to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. "Research shows that breast milk provides unique nutrients and antibodies that help protect babies from diseases such as ear infections, lower respiratory infections and diarrhea, and decrease the risk of asthma, diabetes and obesity later in life. For women, breastfeeding lowers their risk for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as diabetes."

Besides the early skin-to-skin contact requirement, the new regulations require hospitals to discuss with patients the risks of early pacifier use. The use of pacifiers can interfere with the mother's ability to recognize early feeding cues and make it difficult to establish breastfeeding. Pacifier use is also associated with early termination of breastfeeding. Both the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that pacifier use be delayed until one month of age, and that after six months of age, infants should be weaned from using pacifiers because of the increased risk for ear infections.

In addition, the amended regulations prohibit hospitals and affiliated clinics from giving out gift bags that contain formula marketing materials such as coupons or free samples to new parents, a practice associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding. Most hospitals in New York have already voluntarily stopped distributing free formula and marketing materials, but the amended regulations help ensure that the remaining hospitals do so, too.

The new policies do not affect infants whose mothers have chosen formula feeding or for whom breastfeeding is medically contraindicated. Hospitals will still provide formula to those infants while they are in the hospital, and will be required to provide individual training in formula preparation and feeding techniques.

The updated regulations are consistent with the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, the evidence-based policy and practice recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) which are required for hospitals to be certified as Baby-Friendly. These changes are also consistent with recommendations by major professional health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In addition, the updated regulations require hospitals to communicate their updated breastfeeding policies and procedures to staff every year. The updated regulations go into effect January 16, 2017.

Although 87 percent of new mothers breastfeed, only 20 percent meet the national recommendation to exclusively breastfeed until an infant is six months old. More than 50 percent of women report not meeting their personal breastfeeding goals, in part, because hospital practices did not fully support them.

In the past five years, many New York hospitals have improved breastfeeding support, with breastfeeding initiation increasing by 10 percent. Fifteen maternity care hospitals in the state are currently certified by Baby Friendly USA (https://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/find-facilities/designated-facilities--by-state), and an additional 40 New York hospitals are working towards becoming certified. Baby Friendly Hospitals must demonstrate that they comply with the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their infants, pay market price for formula, and do not distribute commercial gift bags or formula samples.