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Md. crafts state hospital breast-feeding policies

Friday - 8/24/2012, 1:37pm  ET

By RACHEL ROUBEIN
Carroll County Times

WESTMINSTER, Md. - Breast milk is a one-stop shop for all the nutrients and energy a baby needs for the first six months of its life, experts say.

That's a message the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is echoing, as it crafts and finalizes guidelines for state hospital breast-feeding policies. It's an issue that's garnered national attention, as hospitals in several states have banned promotional baby formula giveaway bags.

A draft of the state's Hospital Breast-feeding Policy Recommendations released Thursday contains 10 best practice principals _ all promoting breast-feeding as the optimal food source _ and the department is seeking public comment before the recommendations are finalized next month.

Carroll Hospital Center is ahead of the curve, as it's already implemented every number on the list, according to Linda Grogan, the executive director of the hospital's Women's and Children's Services. The hospital has always had a breast- feeding policy, she said.

The draft recommends a "rooming-in" practice, where mothers and their newborns are together 24/7. Carroll Hospital Center already does that in its rooms, called Labor, Delivery, Recovery and Postpartum rooms, Grogan said.

Another guideline is for state hospitals to hold breast-feeding support group meetings, which Carroll Hospital Center does every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m.

DHMH encourages hospitals to adhere to these recommendations; babies who are fed formula or who are stopped being breast-fed early have higher risks of obesity, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome and more, according to the draft.

Additionally, the department encouraged state hospitals in a news release Thursday to achieve a Baby-Friendly designation, which the World Health Organization and UNICEF give to those that achieve a high level of breast-feeding support.

But there's a rather difficult barrier to achieving Baby-Friendly status: eliminating free promotional bags that baby formula companies give to hospitals for them to gift to new mothers, according to Grogan.

"It's just historically something that hospitals have always done," she said. "They come to the hospital expecting to receive that diaper bag and wanting it."

It's an issue that put New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the national spotlight last month after he announced that 27 of 40 hospitals that deliver babies in the city will stop giving out the bags (unless at the mother's request or for medical reasons), according to The Associated Press.

Carroll Hospital Center is discussing the possibility of eliminating the freebie, dubbed a "diaper bag." It's contemplating creating its own bag, instead, filled with items that support breast-feeding, Grogan said.

Although it's too early to definitively say, Grogan said she thinks the hospital would still have them on hand upon a mother's request or for medical assistance purposes.

She did not have a date for when the decision would be reached. It's a difficult one, she said.

"Moms ultimately make the decisions how their infants are fed," she said, "and we don't feel we can make that decision for them."

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Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., http://www.carrollcounty.com/


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)