Doctors Hospital of Augusta August 02, 2011

Originally written for The Augusta Chronicle
By Tom Corwin, Staff Writer

Melody Roebuck, of Augusta, holds her newborn
son, Simon Trevor Roebuck, in her room at Doctors
Hospital, which follows Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention guidelines to support and promote breast-
feeding but isn’t designated “baby-friendly.”

Simon Trevor Roebuck blinked his tiny eyes and seemed to be heading into slumber as he was rocked gently by his grandmother Marlys Roebuck, of Augusta.

“He’s a happy clam,” said his mother, Melody, who had just breast-fed him in her room at Doctors Hospital. She hopes she can keep him happy like that for months to come.

A report Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed only a slight rise in the way hospitals are promoting and supporting breast-feeding. Nationwide, 3.5 percent of hospitals in 2009 were following nine out of 10 recommendations for supporting and promoting breast-feeding that would allow them to be designated as “baby-friendly,” up from 2.4 percent in 2007, according to the CDC’s Vital Signs report. There were no such hospitals in Georgia or South Carolina.

“We’re still a very long way from where we need to be,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said. “Hospitals need to greatly improve practices to support mothers who want to breast-feed.”

Doctors Hospital does follow the 10 recommendations but has not applied yet to be certified, said Sally Wood, a lactation consultant and perinatal educator at the hospital.

NATIONWIDE, 75 PERCENT of mothers start off breast-feeding, but that number declines to 44 percent at six months. Breast-feeding for nine months lowers the risk of the child’s being overweight by 30 percent and lowers the risk of infection, Frieden said.

“The initial breast milk has very important antibodies that are passed to the child,” he said. “The child can’t make their own antibodies until they are about 6 months old. So breast milk is the only way to give them the antibodies.”

Said the study’s lead author, Dr. Cria Perrine: “It also has different hormones that we know are involved in appetite and energy balance, as well as a varying protein content from formula. It is just the optimal nutrition for infants, starting at birth.”

Babies who are breast-fed also have better control of their intake and are less likely to be overfed, she said. Not feeding formula to babies who don’t medically need it is one of the breast-feeding recommendations. Formula companies work a deal with hospitals to provide free formula for, say, premature infants in exchange for the hospitals’ sending home formula with the new mothers, Frieden said. That could be tough for hospitals to give up, said Katie Poppell, a lactation consultant at University Hospital.

“It would be a big change because that is how we functioned here for so many years so it would be a whole mindset change,” she said. “We would love to see us baby-friendly, but we know we’ve got a ways to get there.”

Doctors Hospital is hoping to stop sending formula home soon and to stop routinely giving it in the hospital unless the mother requests it, Wood said.

“I think I have conquered it here with my nurses in that the nurses no longer think the baby has to have formula every four hours to survive,” she said.

Breast-feeding is difficult for women who go back to work, but that could be changing soon. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed last year requires employers with more than 50 workers to provide reasonable break time and a private location that is not a bathroom for breast-feeding mothers to express milk, Frieden said.

The CSRA Breastfeeding Coalition on Thursday will honor local employers who made it easier for their employees to breast-feed, said coalition Co-chairwoman Donna Wilson, the WIC breast-feeding coordinator.

“We have employers talking about breast-feeding because it benefits them,” she said.