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Implementing Legislation to Improve Hospital Support of Breastfeeding, New York State, 2009–2013
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    Prev Chronic Dis
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    Increasing breastfeeding is a public health priority supported by strong evidence. In 2009, New York passed Public Health Law § 2505–a, requiring that hospitals support the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) recommended “Ten Steps for Successful Breastfeeding” (Ten Steps). This legislation strengthened and codified existing New York State’s hospital perinatal regulations. The purpose of this study was to assess hospital policy compliance with New York laws and regulations related to breastfeeding.


    In 2009, 2011, and 2013, we collected written breastfeeding policies from 129 New York hospitals that provided maternity services. A policy review tool was developed to quantify compliance with the 28 components of breastfeeding support specified in New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations and the new legislation. In 2010 and 2012, hospitals received individual feedback from the New York State Department of Health, which informed hospitals in 2012 that formal regulatory enforcement, including potential fines, would be implemented for noncompliance.


    The number of components included in hospital policies increased from a mean of 10.4 in 2009, to 16.8 in 2011, and to 27.1 in 2013) (P < .001); a greater increase occurred from 2011 through 2013 than from 2009 through 2011 (P < .001). The percentage of hospitals with fully compliant policies increased from 0% in 2009, to 5% in 2011, and to 75% in 2013 (P < .001), and the percentage that included all WHO’s 10 steps increased from 0% to 9% to 87%, respectively (P < .001).


    Although legislation or regulations requiring certain practices are important, monitoring with enforcement accelerates, and may be necessary for, full implementation. Future research is needed to evaluate the impact of improved hospital breastfeeding policies on breastfeeding outcomes in New York.

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