Few Babies in Child-Care Centers Receive Breast Milk:
THURSDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- While new mothers are
strongly encouraged to breast-feed their babies for at least a
year, a small study of child-care centers suggests that relatively
few are set up to help moms to do so.
The research, led by doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital
Medical Center, revealed that only 12 percent of infants enrolled
in child-care centers in two counties near Cincinnati were being
fed their mother's milk, even though 96 percent of the center
directors said they'd be comfortable facilitating the practice.
"We were surprised to find that despite the high staff comfort levels in feeding human milk, only a small percentage of infants were being fed human milk," said study author Dr. Kristen Copeland, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
One big stumbling block seems to be a lack over overnight
refrigerated storage at centers for any pumped breast milk mothers
might care to leave, the study found.
"We know that centers that allow pumped milk to be stored overnight make it easier for women to provide a constant supply of milk for their babies," Copeland said, "so if more centers offered overnight storage, it might increase the number of infants who are fed human milk."
The findings were presented this week at a joint meeting of the
Pediatric Academic Societies/Asian Society for Pediatric Research
According to the researchers, roughly half of all infants in the
United States are in child care, and 18 percent are in centers.
For the study, Copeland and her colleagues conducted telephone
surveys with the directors of 167 child-care centers in two urban
counties in southwestern Ohio. The directors were asked how many
infants currently enrolled at their centers were being fed pumped
breast milk, how comfortable the center was with feeding pumped
breast milk, and if the center provided a refrigerator or freezer
where mothers could store pumped breast milk overnight.
Only 26 percent of the centers said human milk could be stored
Three factors -- allowing parents to store human milk overnight,
a primarily white enrollment, and a smaller proportion of babies
receiving subsidized tuition -- seemed to raise the odds that
babies cared for at a center might receive their mother's milk, the
Copeland said that although the study didn't examine the reasons
why so few infants received bottles of pumped breast milk while at
day care, a lack of overnight storage might be a key contributing
The low prevalence of human milk feeding among non-white and
low-income infants, especially, might also "reflect lower
breast-feeding initiation rates or women's limited options for
pumping in the workplace," the authors noted.
"The findings speak to the tremendous challenges that women face in being able to successfully breast-feed their babies," said breast-feeding researcher Dr. Alison Stuebe, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.
Stuebe agreed that the differences seen between babies from
poorer or more affluent homes might be due, in part, to mothers not
being able to pump during the workday. "The higher your income, the
more likely it is that you have an office with a door that you can
close for twenty minutes so you can pump," she said. "If you're
working at the drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant, you
don't have that option."
Child-care centers that want to be truly cooperative need to do
more than just provide overnight storage for pumped milk, Stuebe
noted. "For instance, there should also be a comfortable place
where mothers can sit down and nurse their babies, either at
lunchtime or when they come to pick them up at the end of the day,"
For more on breast-feeding, go to the
National Women's Health Center.
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