Illinois Physician Groups Promote Breastfeeding Education, Support and Awareness

Posted on: September 23, 2011

Calls on Physicians to Advocate within Area Hospitals to Implement Baby-Friendly Steps

Three state-wide provider groups issued a statement today (available for download here) mobilizing their physician members to support breastfeeding through implementation of evidence-based practices and to work within hospitals to increase breastfeeding rates in Illinois to improve maternal and child health. Rates of breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity in Illinois are lower than the national average, despite studies that show breastfeeding’s role in fighting childhood obesity and providing health benefits for nursing mothers.

The Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP), the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP) and the Illinois Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ISACOG) cite a lack of information about breastfeeding, along with limited access to affordable breastfeeding support services as contributing factors to these lower rates. The physicians are working within area hospitals to achieve the Baby-Friendly designation developed by UNICEF and the World Health Organization and implemented by Baby-Friendly USA. And, through the Illinois Physicians Statement on Breastfeeding, the three groups are calling upon their physician members to provide continuity of care to their patients from preconception to post delivery to increase breastfeeding rates inIllinois.

“Breastfeeding has countless health benefits for moms and babies,” said Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) chief operating officer, Stephen A. Martin, Jr., Ph.D., M.P.H., “For example, infants who are breastfed have improved immunity, fewer childhood infections and a lower risk of childhood obesity. And moms can lower their incidence of breast and ovarian cancer.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card, which provides state and national breastfeeding data, the breastfeeding rate in Illinois for infants at 6 months of age is 45 percent with only 14 percent being exclusively breastfed. For African-American babies, the rates are significantly lower: 9 percent are breastfed exclusively (i.e., without the addition of formula) at six months. The CDC’s national goal for breastfeeding exclusively at six months is 25.5 percent.

The Illinois breastfeeding initiative is funded with a grant from the Communities Putting Prevention to Work Program, a joint project of CCDPH and the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago, funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The initiative includes educating hospitals and staff on the benefits of adopting policies to promote and support breastfeeding as well as tools to assist them in implementing breastfeeding programs.

“Feeding infants human milk gives them the most complete nutrition because it provides the optimal mix of nutrients and antibodies necessary for babies to thrive,” said Krystal Revai, MD, MPH, FAAP, ICAAP Committee on Breastfeeding. “Studies show that breastfed children have fewer and less serious illnesses including reduced risk of SIDS and less childhood cancer and diabetes, than those who never receive breast milk,” she said. “By uniting Illinois physicians and enlisting the help of hospitals in Cook County to implement Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives, we are promoting change that will impact generations to come.”

Breastfeeding has benefits beyond better health. Families can save between $1,200-1,500 annually and according to a 2010 study in Pediatrics, if 90 percent of families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, theUnited States would save $13 billion from reduced medical care and other costs. Better infant health can mean fewer hospital claims, less employee time off to care for sick children and higher productivity.

“Although the hospital is not and should not be the only place a mother receives support for breastfeeding, hospitals provide a unique and critical link between the breastfeeding support provided prior to and after delivery,” said Trish MacEnroe, executive director, Baby-Friendly USA. “By implementing Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives, success rates among mothers who want to breastfeed can be greatly improved.”

By implementing the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, hospitals with maternity facilities inIllinois and across theUnited States can achieve the Baby-Friendly designation as defined by Baby-Friendly USA:

1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.

2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.

3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.

4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.

5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.

6. Give newborn infants only breast milk, unless medically indicated.

7. Practice “rooming in” – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.

8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.

9. Do not give pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.

10. Create breastfeeding support groups and provide that information to new mothers when they are discharged from the hospital or clinic.

Cost analysis shows the financial impact for hospitals that have implemented Baby-Friendly practices is cost-neutral when compared to hospitals that do not implement these practices.  For information on Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives, visit: or

About the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (ICAAP)

ICAAP’s mission is to promote the right of all children to live happy, safe, and healthy lives, to ensure children receive quality medical care from pediatricians – the most qualified physicians to deliver this care – and to assess and serve the needs of its membership.

About the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP)

The Illinois Academy of Family Physicians (IAFP) is a 3,800-member professional medical society dedicated to maintaining high standards of family practice in medicine and surgery.  To retain membership, family doctors must keep up to date on current medical advances by taking continuing education courses.   The IAFP is a constituent chapter of the AAFP, the largest medical specialty association in the country, which has 94,600 members.

About the Illinois Section of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ISACOG)

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College), a 501(c)(3) organization, is the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women. As a private, voluntary, nonprofit membership organization of approximately 55,000 members, The College strongly advocates for quality health care for women, maintains the highest standards of clinical practice and continuing education of its members, promotes patient education, and increases awareness among its members and the public of the changing issues facing women’s health care. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a 501(c)(6) organization, is its companion organization.