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Spring 2008

UCLA Ranks High in Getting New Mothers to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding rates for new mothers leaving UCLA hospitals are among the highest in L.A. County

More than 80 percent of women begin motherhood intending to nurse, but only about half of those leave the hospital exclusively breastfeeding, according to a study released last November by the California WIC Association and UC Davis Human Lactation Center. Only about 40 percent of those who are breastfeeding upon leaving the hospital are still nursing at all after six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages new mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of the baby’s life.

UCLA ranks high in getting new mothers to breastfeedThis gap between intentions and outcomes is largely the result of barriers to successful breastfeeding that start in many hospitals, according to Wendy Slusser, M.D., director of the UCLA Breastfeeding Resource Program. “A supportive hospital is critical,” Dr. Slusser says. “There is a window of opportunity in the first week or two of the baby’s life to establish successful breastfeeding, and if the hospital has the right policies in place, there is much more potential for that to occur.”

UCLA has embraced policies promoted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to encourage successful breastfeeding; as a result, breastfeeding rates for new mothers leaving UCLA’s Westwood and Santa Monica hospitals are among the highest in Los Angeles County. At UCLA’s hospitals, assistance is available around the clock to new mothers, and support is available after discharge. Bringing the newborn to the mother’s breast within the first hour after delivery dramatically raises the likelihood of successful breastfeeding. “That first latch is a memory that the baby can refer to next time it feeds,” says Christy Whiteside, UCLA lactation consultant.

Evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding to both the mother and the infant are now overwhelming. Jennifer Yeung, M.D., UCLA pediatrician, says, “It promotes bonding, gives the baby immune protection that can help prevent a wide variety of diseases and infections, reduces or delays the occurrence of allergies and increases the likelihood of the mother returning to pre-pregnancy weight.”

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