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Bill Aims To Boost Breastfeeding In California

Audio

Aired 5/31/11

A recent report shows only about half of all new mothers leave California hospitals exclusively breastfeeding their newborns. A bill designed to improve that rate has cleared the state senate.

— A measure aimed at increasing breastfeeding rates in California is moving through the state legislature. The bill would require all maternity hospitals to have a clearly posted infant feeding policy.

Supporters of the measure say hospitals need to do a better job to encourage women to exclusively breast-feed their newborns.

Nancy Wight is a neonatologist at San Diego's Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women. She said many hospitals have infant feeding policies that are counterproductive.

"Most mothers come into the hospital wanting to exclusively breast-feed," Dr. Wight said. "But we sabotage them, by giving formula when it's not necessary, and by undermining breastfeeding in various different ways, like marketing bags from formula companies, and that kind of thing."

A recent report from the California WIC Association shows a wide disparity in breast-feeding rates in local hospitals. For example, only 43 percent of women at Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside breast-feed their babies. The rate is 85 percent at Scripps La Jolla.

The WIC report reveals California hospitals with the lowest breast-feeding rates tend to serve poor women of color.

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