Just in time for World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has released the results of its systematic review of “Breastfeeding Programs and Policies, Breastfeeding Uptake, and Maternal Health Outcomes in Developed Countries,” which concludes that the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is associated with improved rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration.
This is welcome news, considering the history behind this report…
An October 2016 report prepared for AHRQ by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) stirred up much controversy in the breastfeeding community by concluding that there were “limited well-controlled studies examining the effectiveness of system-level policies and practices on rates of breastfeeding” and recommended additional research to determine the efficacy of programs such as the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
Predictably, the study’s “lack of sufficient evidence” conclusion was used by some BFHI detractors as justification to publicly malign the BFHI. Sensationalized and wholly inaccurate statements and headlines bubbled up across breastfeeding discussion boards, blogs and editorial content for many weeks.
Baby-Friendly USA said nothing at the time, preferring to wait for more affirmative study.
Now, two years later, AHRQ has released the results of the more comprehensive study recommended in the October 2016 report. It concludes that, “based on results from nine cohort studies (1,227,532 women), rates of any and exclusive breastfeeding at discharge is higher among women giving birth in BFHI-certified facilities than control facilities.”
We have never doubted that the BFHI helps increase breastfeeding rates. Now, thanks to AHRQ, we can state it as an undeniable scientific fact.