State Releases 2020 In-Hospital Breastfeeding Initiation Rates

February 27, 2023

The Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Division (MCAH) of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently released California’s 2020 in-hospital breastfeeding initiation rates. MCAH collects data on infant feeding practices in hospitals during routine newborn screening for genetic diseases, and these statistics can be found on the CDPH Breastfeeding Statistics website.

The state presented more current data at the 2023 Virtual California Breastfeeding Summit, which attendees might remember. However, what you might not know is the state has a robust data dashboard available to anyone interested in this information as well.

We strongly encourage you to examine your county’s breastfeeding rates to gauge how hospitals in your area are doing at supporting lactation success in the early postpartum phase.

Here at the California Breastfeeding Coalition, we’re concerned by the steady decline of in-hospital breastfeeding rates since 2018, including exclusive in-hospital breastfeeding, across the state. One contributing factor may be hospitals who were previously designated Baby-Friendly, opting out to maintain their Baby-Friendly designation. Instead they have opted to follow models that don’t have an external audit to ensure implementation of the WHO Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding Initiative. It is unfortunate considering this initiative is evidence-based and shown to increase breastfeeding rates among all birthing people delivering in a hospital regardless of the demographics they represent. We encourage hospital workers to take a deeper dive into their data using these tables, and ask more questions about what they show.

For example, Dr. Susan Crowe and her team from Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford shared at the Summit this year that they noted lower exclusive human milk feeding rates for Spanish-preferring families than other families. To find out more, they interviewed families and identified gaps in maternity care practices and lactation support that contributed to the disparity. These interviews uncovered the following trends:

  • Fewer encounters with lactation support providers
  • Limited accessibility to interpreter services
  • Lack of trust in hospital caregivers

Using that information, the hospital now actively works to reduce barriers to successful lactation initiation and human milk feeding for Spanish-preferring families. 

We are committed to finding ways to provide education and support that create a hospital environment where staff and families understand the importance of lactation initiation and human milk feeding in providing infants with the necessary nutrition for healthy growth and development. Together, we can work toward reversing this trend and promoting exclusive in-hospital breastfeeding as the best practice for infant feeding.