Monday, October 27, 2014

Beyond the Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights

In 2009, New York passed its Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights, affirming mothers' rights to breastfeed any place, public or private. The focus of many provisions was on increasing mothers' access to information. Subsequently, hospitals had to share breastfeeding rates and other statistics.

A study to be published this fall in the American Journal of Law and Medicine finds that the law may have had larger effects, as hospitals and their staff responded to new disclosure rules by changing their practices. In a blog post today, Timothy Lytton writes:
The DOH regulation requiring hospitals to disclose breastfeeding rates among their maternity patients also influenced management within hospitals. Maternity unit managers used the breastfeeding data required by the regulation to train clinical staff, set performance goals, and monitor outcomes. The regulation has also encouraged frequent collection and use of breastfeeding data for quality improvement. A perinatal clinical nurse specialist in one New York hospital told us that she generates daily reports on breastfeeding rates in her unit and has been able to document a steady increase in the rate of breastfeeding among mothers in the unit. Data have also helped maternity unit managers advocate more effectively within their hospitals for changes in clinical policies.

Repeated reviews of compliance with DOH’s model breastfeeding policy and periodic data reporting have maintained a prominent place for breastfeeding promotion on the agenda of maternity care units and hospital management. Policies must be reviewed for compliance. Data must be disclosed to patients. These requirements continuously demand the attention of administrators, unit managers, and staff.

Our findings suggest that transparency policies can significantly influence government regulators and hospital administrators independently of their effects on patients. DOH officials and maternity unit managers appear to have used the pressure and information generated by New York State’s breastfeeding transparency laws to reform hospital policies and practices proactively, not merely in response to signals from patients.
Lytton and coauthors Barbara Dennison, Trang Nguyen, and Janine Jurkowski suggest that the study may have implications beyond just breastfeeding policy, providing an example of the ways that disclosure rules may have a downstream impact on actual services.

1 comment:

Britta Moore said...

This is excellent news. As an extension of this study, I wonder how difficult it would be to plot data on breastfeeding rates in New York hospitals from before and after this policy was implemented. This data would nicely augment the support for the new disclosure policy that is evident in the changes examined in the study described. I hope that other states will see the evidence-based outcomes from this policy and adopt more rigorous breastfeeding policies.