New moms who began breastfeeding within an hour of giving birth and those whose babies were not given supplemental feedings or pacifiers were a lot more likely to achieve their breastfeeding goals.
Which takes us back to what breastfeeding proponents see as a really big problem in the United States: a hospital and commercial system that is set up to hinder, rather than help, nursing.
Despite a lot of hype about women breastfeeding (hello, Time Magazine), the US lags well behind other developed countries (and a lot of undeveloped ones, too) when it comes to nursing. It ranks last on a recent Save the Children “breastfeeding policy scorecard,” with only 35 percent of moms exclusively breastfeeding at three months.
And although there’s a lot of talk in the medical world about the benefits of breastfeeding – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months of exclusive nursing – there’s also a lot of contradictory behavior.
That Save the Children report on global motherhood, for instance, found that only 2 percent of American hospitals are “baby friendly.” The “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative” was launched in 1991 by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, and designates a hospital as “baby friendly” if it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitute and has implemented a number of breastfeeding support measures, such as having lactation consultants on staff and encouraging moms to nurse their babies soon after giving birth.
In a lot of ways, these seem that they’d be pretty basic steps. According to the all the information about breastfeeding out there, it’s clear that nursing soon after birth – preferably with the help of someone who knows how the whole thing works (not as obvious as you might think, I tell you) – is hugely important to establish a successful breastfeeding relationship. So is avoiding formula.