Expanding breastfeeding-friendly hospital practices and policies could increase breastfeeding rates in the United States WIC-served population, according to a study recently published in The Journal of Nutrition. Matias (University of California) and co-authors found that breastfeeding outcomes were positively associated with the total number of breastfeeding hospital practices experienced.

Breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition during the first 6 months of life and is associated with reduced infant mortality and health benefits for children and mothers. Unfortunately, not all infants in the United States are breastfed, and sociodemographic disparities exist in breastfeeding rates.  Although breastfeeding support at hospitals is associated with optimal breastfeeding outcomes in the general United States population, limited data are available on the impact of breastfeeding-supportive hospital practices in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children-served population. Known as WIC, this program was developed to safeguard the health of women, infants and young children living on low incomes by providing nutritious foods, nutrition education, and referrals to other services. In 2009, WIC adopted new practices to promote breastfeeding, which included increasing food benefits for exclusively breastfeeding mothers and reducing the amount of formula for partially breastfeeding mothers.

The research team studied the association between breastfeeding-related hospital practices (rooming-in, support from hospital staff, and provision of a pro-formula gift pack) and the odds of any or exclusive breastfeeding through 5 months among infants and mothers enrolled in WIC. Using data from the WIC Infant and Toddler Feeding Practices Study II, a nationally representative cohort of children and caregivers enrolled in WIC, breastfeeding outcomes were surveyed at 1, 3, and 5 months. Maternal experience of hospital practices was reported at 1 month postpartum.

Rooming-in and strong hospital staff support were associated with any and exclusive breastfeeding during the first few months of life. Provision of a pro-formula gift pack was negatively associated with any breastfeeding at all time points and with exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month. Breastfeeding outcomes were positively associated with the total number of breastfeeding-friendly hospital practices received.  Thus, policies and practices to provide comprehensive breastfeeding support at the hospital are likely beneficial for increasing breastfeeding rates in the United States WIC-served population.


French CD, Shafique MA, Bang H, Matias SL. Perinatal Hospital Practices Are Associated with Breastfeeding through 5 Months Postpartum among Women and Infants from Low-Income Households. The Journal of Nutrition. Volume 153, Issue 1, January 2023, Pages 322-330. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2022.11.007.

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