“Baby Friendly” means exactly what it says!

MCC's Response to Dr. McDonough on The Baby Friendly Initiative


This week, KWY’s Medical Editor, Dr. Brian McDonough published a piece on their website which referenced the Baby Friendly Initiative in Philadelphia.

In his article, Dr. McDonough highlighted the importance of the initiative, but levelled criticisms about the impact upon mothers who choose not to breastfeed:

McDonough stated: “Those who argue against the program suggest the numerous rules that hospitals must follow with everything from elimination of free formula samples to eliminating the term nursery and having doctors write orders for formula as if it were a medication. Certainly breastfeeding is a great option but for those who struggle or simply want the option of formula, they can be made to feel very uncomfortable.”

As a leading member of the Multi-Hospital Breastfeeding Promotion Task Force, we submitted our response to his posting:

Dear Dr. McDonough,

In response to your article “Baby-Friendly Not So Friendly for Some Moms”, thank you for highlighting the Baby Friendly Initiative in Philadelphia that is driven by the work of the Multi-Hospital Breastfeeding Promotion Task Force. We have joined together to help create a Breastfeeding Friendly Philadelphia, which includes working to help mothers make an informed choice about infant feeding.  As you pointed out, breastfeeding makes a difference! For babies, there is lower risk of pulmonary and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and leukemia. For mothers, there is a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer.  In a time when 60% of our children are obese, there is lower risk of obesity for both mothers and babies who breastfeed.

In your brief article, you outline several critiques, notably the rules hospitals must follow. Becoming Baby Friendly does mean adhering to certain guidelines, but it doesn’t condemn mothers who choose, for whatever reason, not to breastfeed. The goal of the initiative is to help mothers make an informed feeding decision based on what’s healthiest for them, their baby and their family. The removal of free formula samples refers to banning the practice of giving new mothers a diaper bag ”gift” which is provided to a maternity hospital for free by a formula company.  Research has shown that when a mother is given one of these bags, even if the formula in the bag is removed, that mother will go on to exclusively breastfeed for a shorter period of time. All Philadelphia birthing hospitals have now joined this movement because  they want babies to have the best possible start. While following this practice, the maternity staff does not ignore the needs of mothers who choose to use formula. Baby Friendly Accreditation means hospitals offer support to all mothers, including support with formula preparation and feeding.  Additionally, experts are available to help mothers learn the healthiest way to feed their baby with formula by teaching paced bottle-feeding and learning  how to recognize when their baby is satisfied.

We invite you to meet with us to find out more about the aims and positive contribution to be made by the Baby Friendly initiative and the positive impact that such a movement can make to this city. You can contact us via email to discuss this matter further.

Yours Sincerely,
The Philadelphia Multi-Hospital Breastfeeding Promotion Taskforce
(Temple University Hospital, Thomas Jefferson Hospital, Einstein Medical Center, Hahnemann Hospital, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Hospital), The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, WIC (North, Inc.) and the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)).

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