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Encouraging Breastfeeding

posted on Sun, Jan 1 2012 12:00 am by Mid-States Region

A local health official contacted the Network with a question about California’s Hospital Infant Feeding Act. Signed into law in October 2011, the Act requires California’s Department of Public Health to promote breastfeeding and develop model training for California hospitals. These training materials are designed to ensure that health care providers are encouraging breastfeeding and offering resources and assistance to all new mothers. The health official specifically inquired whether any other states have enacted similar policies.

The Network provided the requestor with the text of the Hospital Infant Feeding Act and responded that, while other states have passed laws relating to breastfeeding, California’s law is unique in that it is the first state law to specifically require hospitals to establish and publicize policies that encourage breastfeeding. Additionally, while California allows hospitals to create their own particular policies regarding breastfeeding, they do require the hospitals to be consistent with guidelines established in the World Health Organization’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative or California’s State Department of Public Health Model Hospital Policy Recommendations.

The Network also informed the requestor about a New York law which was passed in 2009 and the creation of a Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights which clarifies specific rights of any new mother relating to breastfeeding. Many of the outlined rights relate to factors that may deter a woman from breastfeeding such as lack of information or lack of assistance with breastfeeding, concerns about where one can breastfeed and the availability of resources to continue breastfeeding after one has left the hospital. The Network provided the requestor with text of the law as well as of the Bill of Rights itself and explained that the Bill of Rights is required to be posted in all maternal care facilities in New York, as well as on the New York Health Department’s website.

Finally, the Network clarified some differences that make California’s law greater in reach. While the New York law creates affirmative rights for breastfeeding mothers, hospitals are only required to respond when a woman chooses to exercise these rights. The California Hospital Infant Feeding Act makes the hospital responsible to develop policies that promote breastfeeding to all women, not just those who specifically seek assistance. Finally, the Network provided the requestor with an online summary of breastfeeding laws in all fifty states from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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