Are More Hospitals and Doctors Recommending Breastfeeding?
Written by Sarah Brooks
The World Health Organization states that women should breastfeed for the child's first six months of life.
Meantime, studies show that more and more women across the U.S. are choosing to breastfeed, but still only 45% are still breastfeeding at six months (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC).
Breastfeeding has been shown to strengthen the bond between mother and baby, protect one’s baby from numerous illnesses and strengthen their immune systems, boost a child's intelligence, lower their risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), reduce the baby's risk of obesity, lower a woman’s risk of postpartum depression and more. Study after study after study shows that breast is best for both mom and baby.
In 2011, the CDC found that mothers who want to breastfeed, but have no hospital support, have a harder time. One in three moms stops breastfeeding early-on if they didn't receive support in the hospital.
Clearly, hospitals and doctors play a huge role in whether or not mothers will breastfeed her child.
What Hospitals are Doing
Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth is crucial.
Surprisingly, only 54% of hospitals encourage skin-to-skin after birth, according to the CDC. This rate is actually up from 2008, where only 41% of moms engaged in skin-to-skin.
The International Breastfeeding Centre states that skin-to-skin contact for at least one hour after birth makes breastfeeding easier by improving the chances of the baby latching on correctly. If the baby latches on better, they get more milk and are therefore less likely to need formula.
The World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund launched a global program in 1991 to help hospitals support breastfeeding mothers, known as the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. They recognize hospitals and birthing centers that follow the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and encourage hospitals and doctors on the importance of infant feeding.
Some hospitals are banning giving out formula samples to new moms in the hospital.
The CDC found that half of hospitals surveyed in 2011 stopped giving out formula samples, up a quarter from 2007. New moms are recovering from birth and their hormones are typically all over the place, so by not having formula as an option it will help more mothers succeed at breastfeeding.
Some moms agree that once you give your baby formula, it can be difficult to go back to exclusively breastfeeding.
Doctors, Nurses Play a Role Too
Doctors and nurses can help get on board with breastfeeding, too.
They can offer their own support and better understand the role that breastfeeding plays between mother and baby. They can counsel moms on its' importance starting at the early prenatal visits and provide resources and lactation consultants to those who may need additional help.
Hospitals can be very quick to give the baby formula, not allow skin-to-skin, not allow the mother and baby in the same room for a period of time or give the baby a pacifier to help soothe him or her. Oftentimes, these little things affect breastfeeding in a big way.
Though hospitals still have a long way to go in the world of breastfeeding, they are improving immensely as the years go on.
About the Author
Sarah Brooks is a freelance writer living in Glendale, AZ with her husband and daughters. She writes on breastfeeding, health care and personal finance.
How healthcare can safeguard itself against cyberthreats
One of the most fundamental lessons from the COVID crisis is that health should always be a priority. In a similar fashion to the human body that frequently fights off viruses and foreign invaders that intend to cause it harm, the sector itself is now a prime target for another type of external threat: cyberattacks.
The figures speak for themselves: between December and January this year, hospitals in the UK were at 89% capacity, with 7,000 fewer available beds than there usually are. As the pandemic increased pressure on hospitals, clinics, and research facilities to create a treatment for patients globally, it has left the sector exposed to hackers who, like a virus, have been targeting it relentlessly and evolving their tactics.
From patient records being held ransom, to fake emails claiming to originate from the UN WHO, the NHS, or vaccine centres, through to attacks on the cold supply chain to find out the secret formula of the COVID vaccine, the healthcare industry is facing constant cyberattacks and struggling to cope. This threat is unlikely to go away anytime soon – and as such, the industry needs to take a proactive, preventative stance to stay safe in a dynamic digital world.
The responsive nature of healthcare – particularly of hospitals – means that efficiency is crucial to the industry’s standard operations. To support this, the sector has been embracing technological advancements that can improve the quality of work, enabling staff to meet pressing deadlines, and enhancing patient care. For example, the industry has been digitising records and improving its ways of working through digital means over the past few years.
This shift is critical to offer high quality patient care; yet, it also means the sector has become more dependent on IT, which can come with a risk if cybersecurity processes employed are deemed as inadequate.
Without the correct security measures in place, the desired efficiency gains realised, can be easily lost in a heartbeat. Simply put, an elementary glitch in the system can have a tremendous ripple effect on many areas, from accessing patient records and conducting scans, to maintaining physical security and protecting the intellectual property of experimental treatment development.
To prevent this, healthcare organisations need to ensure they’re considering cybersecurity as part of their overall digital transformation strategy – and setting the right foundations to create a culture where safety goes hand in hand with patient care.
Before implementing cybersecurity process, healthcare organisations need to assess the potential risks they face. Depending on how much confidential data the trust has, where it is stored, who has access to it and via which means, the cybersecurity strategy and associated solutions will change.
It’s fair to say that a medical device start-up where all employees have a corporate-sanctioned laptop and access data via a VPN will have radically different needs to a large hospital with hundreds of frontline workers connecting to the hospital’s Wi-Fi using their personal device.
These requirements will pale by comparison to a global pharmaceutical giant with offices in multiple locations, a large R&D department researching new treatments for complex diseases and a fully integrated supply chain. Considering the existing setup and what the organisations is looking to achieve with its digital transformation strategy will therefore have an immediate impact on the cybersecurity strategy.
Despite this, there are fundamentals that any organisation should implement:
Review and test your back-up policy to ensure it is thorough and sufficient – By checking that the organisation’s back-up is running smoothly, IT teams can limit any risks of disruption in the midst of an incident and of losing data permanently.
In our recent State of Email Security report, we found that six out of ten organisations have been victims of ransomware in 2020. As a result, afflicted organisations have lost an average of six days to downtime. One third of organisations even admitted that they failed to get their data back, despite paying the ransom. In the healthcare industry, this could mean losing valuable patient records or data related to new treatments – two areas the sector cannot afford to be cavalier about.
Conduct due diligence across the organisation’s supply chain – Healthcare organisations should review their ways of working with partners, providers and regulatory institutions they work with in order to prevent any weak link in their cybersecurity chain. Without this due diligence, organisations leave themselves exposed to the risks of third party-led incidents.
Roll out mandatory cybersecurity awareness training - Healthcare organisations shouldn’t neglect the training and awareness of their entire staff – including frontline workers who may not access the corporate network on a regular basis. According to our State of Email Security report, only one fifth of organisations carry out ongoing cyber awareness training.
This suggests it is not widely considered as a fundamental part of most organisations cyber-resilience strategy, despite the fact many employees rely on their organisation’s corporate network to work. By providing systematic training, healthcare organisations can help workers at all levels better understand the current cyberthreats they face, how they could impact their organisation, the role they play in defending the networks, and develop consistent, good cybersecurity hygiene habits to limit the risks of incidents.
Consider a degree of separation – Information and Operational Technology (IT and OT) networks should be separated.
Although mutually supported and reliance on each other, employees shouldn’t be accessing one via the other. This should be complemented by a considered tried and tested contingency and resiliency plan that allows crucial services to function unabated should there be a compromise. Similarly, admin terminals should not have internet access to afford a degree of hardening and protection for these critical accounts.
As the sector becomes a common target for fraudulent and malicious activity, putting cybersecurity at the core of the organisation’s operations is critical. It will help limit the risks of disruption due to cyberattacks, reduce time spent by the cybersecurity team to resolve easily avoidable errors, and ensure that institutions can deliver patient care, safe in the knowledge that their networks are safe.
Fighting future threats
With technology continuing to change the face of healthcare, the surface area and vectors available for attacks by malicious actors is constantly increasing. With the introduction of apps, networked monitoring devices, and a need for communication, the attack vector is ever expanding, a trend that needs to be monitored and secured against.
To prevent any damage to patients, staff, or the organisation they are responsible for, healthcare leaders must put security front and centre of their digital transformation strategy. Only then can the sector harness the full benefits of technology. Doing this should include implementing cybersecurity awareness training to challenge misconceptions around security, encourage conversation, and to ensure employee knowledge of the security basics and threats faced.
This ultimately allows healthcare organisations to do what they do best: provide the highest standard of patient care, safe in the knowledge that their operations, patients, and data are safe.