More than three-quarters of Iowa mothers are breastfeeding their newborns at the time of discharge from the hospital, according to the latest figures released by the Iowa Department of Public Health. A chart near the bottom of this page shows data compiled through the Iowa Newborn Metabolic Screening Profile Feeding Report since 2000. Statewide, about 63 percent of newborns were receiving some breast milk in the year 2000, but by 2013 the rate had risen to 77.7 percent. This chart shows the breastfeeding incidence for about two-thirds of Iowa counties between 2006 and 2013. (Counties with fewer than 20 recorded births per year were not included in the analysis.) Almost every county saw the breastfeeding rate increase during that period, but there was wide variation among counties. Howard County in northern Iowa started out above the statewide average in 2006 and had the highest breastfeeding rate in 2013 at 95.2 percent. Nearby Chickasaw County had the lowest rate at 54.5 percent and is one of the few Iowa counties where the newborn breastfeeding rate has declined in recent years.
Small changes in hospital policies can make a big difference in breastfeeding rates. This slide show created by Dr. Nils Bergman discusses how skin to skin contact in the first hours after birth promotes more breastfeeding. Toward the middle of the presentation, he discusses a study at one California hospital, where an hour of skin to skin time for babies in the first three hours of life dramatically increased the percentage of mothers who were breastfeeding at the time of hospital discharge.
The new Iowa statistics only reflect the percentage of babies receiving some breast milk in the hospital. For many women, the most difficult period for breastfeeding is the week or two after bringing baby home. (That was my experience.) In-person help from certified lactation consultants or accredited volunteer breastfeeding educators can be crucial. Sometimes a small change in how a woman holds her baby or her breast can make a huge difference in baby's ability to transfer milk. Free breastfeeding support is available through Iowa chapters of La Leche League and Breastfeeding USA. After the jump I've posted information about other free breastfeeding resources for Iowa mothers.
Knowing what to expect during the early weeks of breastfeeding is critical. It's typical for newborns to nurse every hour or two around the clock, or to go through a period of "cluster feeding" for a few hours each day. In our culture, many women wrongly interpret those and other normal behaviors as a sign that they are not making enough milk. Again, seeking advice in person or over the phone can be helpful. Good online sources for breastfeeding information, including trouble-shooting, include Kellymom, La Leche League, and Breastfeeding, Inc. Among the many good books that have been published about breastfeeding, the best short read in my opinion is Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. The best book for trouble-shooting is The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Dr. Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman. The best overview of typical breastfeeding behavior is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League International.