Breastfeeding: Good for Babies, Good for Business

The long-term benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers are undisputed. Breastfeeding is linked to decreased risk for infant illness and mortality. It is also associated with reduced risk for maternal illness.

It is well-documented that maternity practices in infant nutrition and care have a significant impact on a mother’s initiation and continuation of breastfeeding. That means your facility can play an important role in the health outcomes of babies born in your facility and enhance the health and patient satisfaction of your patients.

As the number of women who intend to breastfeed rises, families are seeking hospitals that support and encourage their efforts to breastfeed. Every delivery is a chance to start a long-term relationship with the birth family. Providing breastfeeding support can deliver long-term benefits to your facility as well.

Improved Quality = Improved Competitiveness

Implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding is a cost-neutral way to greatly increase the quality of maternity services in your facility. Implementation of the Ten Steps addresses all six Aims of Improvement first laid out in the Institute of Medicine’s groundbreaking 2001 report, Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century.

Aims of Improvement

Safety: Facilities can improve the safety and stability of all neonates regardless of chosen infant feeding method. Investing time and energy in preparation and implementation of best practices for infant nutrition and care will result in improved infant feeding outcomes. Evidence-informed support of infant feeding protects your facility against avoidable risks such as infection, hypothermia, hypoglycemia, jaundice, and hypernatremic dehydration. Texas Ten Steps promotes optimal nutritional and developmental outcomes for the newborn and optimal health outcomes for babies and their mothers.

Effectiveness: When old practices are replaced with the Ten Steps, facilities are well-positioned to improve their performance in measures such as those assessed by the CDC’s Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care survey and the Joint Commission’s Perinatal Care Core Measure Set. Facilities that are recognized for their integration of best practices have an advantage in recruitment and retention of qualified health-care professionals and in cultivating satisfaction and lifelong loyalty in their patient population.

Patient-Centeredness: Facilities that implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding demonstrate their commitment to placing families at the center of care by promoting informed decision-making, facilitating achievement of patients’ infant-feeding goals, and supporting maternal confidence and parental self-efficacy. This patient-centered approach results in higher rates of customer satisfaction.

Timeliness: By making a facility-wide commitment to increase staff competencies and continuity of lactation support, implementation of the Ten Steps results in fewer delays experienced by families who are seeking effective assistance with infant nutrition and care.

Efficiency: A 2009 cost analysis prepared for the Texas Department of State Health Services concluded that overall expenditures for implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are effectively cost-neutral and are reduced each year. Meanwhile, savings in space, time, supplies, and capital as well as improved health outcomes continue to increase.

Equity: Breastfeeding allows all infants access to the same quality of nutrition and immune protection, regardless of social and economic resources. Texas data demonstrate that racial/ethnic disparity gaps in infant feeding are narrowed through implementation of the Ten Steps. As breastfeeding exclusivity and duration are related to many short- and long-term maternal and child health outcomes, breastfeeding has implications for reducing health disparities throughout the life course.

“Breastfeeding is a natural ‘safety net’ against the worst effects of poverty… exclusive breastfeeding goes a long way toward canceling out the health difference between being born into poverty and being born into affluence… It is almost as if breastfeeding takes the infant out of poverty for those first few months in order to give the child a fairer start in life.”

- James P. Grant, former Executive Director, UNICEF

Savings Costs for Families, Communities, and Hospitals

A cost analysis conducted by researchers from the Harvard Medical School calculated that if 90 percent of U.S. women would breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, up to 13 billion additional dollars a year could be saved. The analysis includes direct and indirect costs of medical care for pediatric illness and costs of missed work time for mothers.

Even racial and ethnic disparities can be offset by practicing the Ten Steps. Economically disadvantaged families, especially those who are uninsured, suffer more hardships from the costs associated with medical care. In addition, avoiding the cost of formula leaves more dollars in the family budget.

A study of Baby-Friendly hospitals in the U.S. found that whether a hospital had a large or small population of women who were African American or low income, breastfeeding outcomes were the same, with an average initiation rate of 84 percent and in-hospital exclusivity rate of 78 percent.[3] As the national breastfeeding initiation rate of African-American mothers was 60 percent in 2007 compared to 75 percent for the general population, Ten Steps practices make a stark difference.[4]

According to the CDC, the most effective public health improvement strategies are those that change the context for health so that individuals’ default choices are those choices which are healthy.[5] When organizational policies, practices and environments are changed to support healthy choices such as breastfeeding, a significant health impact can be realized for a large number of people with very little individual effort required by those who are at risk for poor health outcomes.

Bottom-line Bonuses for Hospitals

  • Less space required for managing feeding supplies and newborn nursery.
  • Reduced costs and time associated with breastfeeding complications.
  • Increased patient satisfaction and safety.
  • Elevation of staff morale and teamwork.
  • Enhanced reputation for quality and patient-centered care.

Breastfeeding Makes A Difference! (2586) (PDF)- download and share this infographic on the benefits and importance of exclusive breastfeeding and the initiatives offered by the Texas Department of State Health Services.