Common hospital practices for newborns like formula or water supplements, or the use of pacifiers may actually do more harm than good and might reduce the new mother's chances to breastfeed her child; warn researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health.
The new study showed that among first-time mothers, 70 percent reported an intention to exclusively breastfeed, but only 50 percent achieved that goal at one week.
The researchers suggest that hospital practices were strongly related to those outcomes.
The practice of hospital staff providing formula or water to supplement breastfeeding was significantly related to the failure to achieve exclusive breastfeeding.
Mothers whose infants were not offered supplementation were far more likely to achieve their intention to breastfeed - 4.4 times more likely among primiparas (first-time mothers), and 8.8 times more likely among multiparas.
"Very often, research studies yield conclusions that don't translate easily into changes in practice or policy," said Eugene Declercq, PhD, professor of Maternal and Child Health.
"In this case, the message is loud and clear - hospital practices can make a difference in early breastfeeding success and in particular, every effort should be made to avoid supplementation of healthy babies of mothers who intended to exclusively breastfeed.
"Why are those hospital practices that have been repeatedly shown to increase breastfeeding among new mothers not more consistently instituted in hospitals?"
"A large proportion of mothers stop exclusive breastfeeding within the first week, and that action was strongly related to hospital practices," Declercq added.
The study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.