News release: Minnesota birth centers and hospitals urged to take ten steps to support breastfeeding

News Release
August 8, 2014

Contact information

Minnesota birth centers and hospitals urged to take ten steps to support breastfeeding

The Minnesota Department of health is encouraging Minnesota’s hospitals and birth centers to take ten steps to support breastfeeding and become baby friendly. MDH is highlighting its initiative as part of National Breastfeeding Month this August.

Research shows that improving maternal care and supporting breastfeeding reduces infant mortality and supports life-long health. Breastfeeding is key to decreasing rates of common childhood illnesses, such as ear infections. It also reduces later risks of obesity and disease, such as certain types of cancers. Exclusive breastfeeding to age 1 year or more leads to the best short- and long- term health outcomes.

Recent studies estimate that if 90 percent of women breastfed exclusively to 6 months, and up to a year or more with complementary foods, the US would save $13 billion yearly in health care costs for both infants and mothers. Minnesota falls short of that goal with only 23.5 percent exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months, according to a CDC’s Breast Feeding Report Card, 2014, released July 31. The same report card found that the vast majority, 89 percent, of Minnesota women initiate breastfeeding. However, some groups of Minnesotans have much lower rates. Minnesota currently ranks 20th among states for its maternity practices in infant nutrition and care.

"We want to partner with hospitals as part of our efforts to make Minnesota a state that supports breastfeeding and gives all children a healthy start,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. As part of the effort, Ehlinger is sending letters to hospital executives calling on them to take additional action to promote breastfeeding and support optimal maternity care by implementing these ten steps.

  1. Have a written infant feeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in the 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 infants no food or drink other than 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. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

The World Health Organization (WHO) identified these steps that are proven methods for increasing breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity. One Minnesota hospital that implemented the ten steps demonstrated a 30 percent increase in exclusive breastfeeding in just two years. Implementing the ten steps has also been demonstrated to close the gap, reducing disparities in breastfeeding rates for all population groups.

Ehlinger also acknowledges the first five hospitals in Minnesota to fully meet international breastfeeding support standards by Baby-Friendly USA.

The hospitals with dates of certification are:

  • Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin, Austin, MN (01/11)
  • University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, Minneapolis, MN (02/12)
  • Healtheast Woodwinds Health Campus, Woodbury, MN (06/14)
  • St. Joseph's Hospital, St. Paul, MN (06/14)
  • St. John’s Hospital, Maplewood, (08/14)

For more information about breastfeeding, women can call 1-877-214-BABY (1-877-214-2229) to find sources of support near them.


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications