Breast is best, the familiar adage reminds parents of newborns. And this August, Breastfeeding Awareness Month gives families, health care providers and policymakers a chance to reflect on the benefits that breastfeeding offers babies and mothers alike. It also begs the questions: How do hospitals, health plans and regulatory policies encourage breastfeeding? And where they could improve?
Calling breastfeeding “the normative standard,” the American Academy of Pediatrics explains that human milk can protect infants from infections, sepsis, diabetes and even childhood obesity. Mothers also benefit, as breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
But do policies encourage mothers and infants to reap the benefits of breastfeeding? Not necessarily.