In 2007, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) took significant steps to increase breastfeeding among new mothers by prohibiting distribution of formula samples in gift bags and other promotional materials. However, HHC took its commitment to breastfeeding one step further when it joined the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Latch On NYC initiative, which asks maternity hospitals to voluntarily adopt four specific breastfeeding practices. While the Latch On initiative still is in its early stages, results from HHC’s other aggressive breastfeeding campaigns already have enhanced patient education and increased exclusive breastfeeding rates.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding has been shown to lower an infant’s risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections, allergic disease, obesity and diabetes. Meanwhile, studies also have shown that breastfeeding may decrease a mother’s risk for postpartum depression and type 2 diabetes.
Recognizing these benefits, the New York City health department announced the Latch On NYC initiative in May 2012, asking hospitals to voluntarily adopt the following practices:
- enforce New York State hospital regulation to not supplement breastfeeding infants with formula feeding unless medically indicated and documented on the infant’s medical chart
- restrict access to infant formula by hospital staff, tracking infant formula distribution and sharing data on formula distribution with the health department
- discontinue the distribution of promotional or free infant formula
- prohibit the display and distribution of infant formula promotional materials in any hospital location
In addition to HHC’s 11 hospitals – which deliver nearly 22,000 babies annually – 18 other New York City hospitals already have joined the Latch On NYC program.
A complement to a robust breastfeeding program
In 2008, Harlem Hospital became the first New York City hospital to be designated as a baby friendly facility by Baby Friendly USA, which is part of a global initiative sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
To earn the designation, hospitals must successfully incorporate 10 practices into their breastfeeding program, including:
- adopting a written breastfeeding policy
- educating staff and patients about the benefits of breastfeeding
- helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth
- and practicing “rooming in,” or allowing mothers and infants to be together 23 hours per day
As a result of its comprehensive breastfeeding program, Harlem Hospital has an exclusive breastfeeding rate of approximately 33 percent, with combination (breastfeeding and formula) feeding rates ranging from 44 percent to 56 percent.
For more information about Latch On NYC and Harlem Hospital’s breastfeeding program, please contact:
Judith Daniels, RNC, MSN, MSA
Associate Director of Nursing, OB/GYN
Harlem Hospital Center