Healthy People 2020 Objectives Combat the Barriers to Breastfeeding

USBC Publishes New Resource to Address Hospital Barriers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - December 13, 2010

Quick Link to the Breastfeeding Objectives (MICH 21-24)

Washington, DC--Social and environmental support for breastfeeding has been brought to the forefront of our nation’s public health priorities with the launch of the Healthy People 2020 (HP2020) agenda by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HP2020 objectives will continue to track national breastfeeding rates, but new objectives will also address recognized barriers to breastfeeding success. New targets will focus attention on worksite support and maternity care practices: areas that often present obstacles for breastfeeding mothers.

HP2020 has raised existing targets for breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity, reflecting our nation’s ongoing commitment to the medical recommendation of six months of exclusive breastfeeding followed by continued breastfeeding for the first year of life and beyond. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 75% of new mothers initiate breastfeeding, but only 13% of infants are breastfed exclusively for six months, while 22% continue some breastfeeding to one year. HP2020 targets aim to increase these rates to 81.9% initiating breastfeeding, 23.7% breastfeeding exclusively through six months, and 34.1% continuing at one year.

The new objectives will take on some of the most challenging barriers to breastfeeding success faced by U.S. mothers. One goal addresses worksite lactation support programs, a topic that has received much recent attention with the passage of the workplace breastfeeding support provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Women now comprise half of the American workforce, with nearly four out of ten women serving as the primary breadwinner in their families. Returning to work can be a major hurdle for new mothers struggling to balance working and breastfeeding: in 2009, only 25% of employers reported providing an on-site lactation/mother’s room, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Two new objectives address maternity care practices, including a target to reduce formula supplementation within the first two days of life. The CDC reports that 25.4% of breastfed infants receive formula before two days of age, despite medical recommendations against routine supplementation with formula, glucose water, or water. Early supplementation decreases a mother’s milk production and can lead to negative health outcomes for the infant.

Another new goal aims for 8.1% of live births to occur in facilities that provide recommended breastfeeding care. Currently less than 4% of U.S. births occur in facilities that have earned the Baby Friendly designation, meeting standards set by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to provide an optimal level of breastfeeding care.

The CDC’s 2007 Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey of all birth facilities in the U.S. showed that the average score was only 65 out of 100. The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) has just published a new resource for maternity facilities choosing The Joint Commission’s new Perinatal Care Core Measure Set. This toolkit will also be invaluable for facilities striving to improve mPINC scores: Part 1 is designed to aid in accurate collection of data on exclusive breastfeeding, while Part 2 focuses on improving adherence to evidence-based best practices.

USBC Chair Robin W. Stanton, MA, RD, LD, applauds the focus in HP2020 on increasing awareness of the social and environmental determinants of health. “In order to reach their own infant feeding goals, mothers need focused support from health care providers, employers, families, and communities,” says Stanton. “The federal recognition of this need marks an important step for breastfeeding advocacy to ensure that all mothers are empowered to succeed.”

For more information on Healthy People 2020, visit USBC publications, including an analysis of the barriers to exclusive breastfeeding, can be downloaded from USBC’s Publications page. To locate health care providers and knowledgeable breastfeeding support personnel that can offer assistance and answer questions about breastfeeding, visit USBC’s FAQ page.

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