Breastfeeding Supportive Hospital Practices in the US Differ by County Urbanization Level
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Breastfeeding Supportive Hospital Practices in the US Differ by County Urbanization Level

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  • Alternative Title:
    J Hum Lact
  • Description:

    Breastfeeding rates are lower among infants living in rural areas of the United States, yet there are limited data on whether hospital breastfeeding support differs between rural and urban areas.


    This study aimed to describe whether maternity care practices supportive of breastfeeding vary by level of urbanization.


    We linked data from the 2007, 2009, and 2011 Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) surveys with Rural-Urban Continuum Codes to categorize hospital counties as metropolitan urbanized, nonmetropolitan urbanized, less urbanized, and thinly populated.


    From 2007 to 2011, the average hospital mPINC score, a composite quality score ranging from 0 to 100, increased from 64 to 71 in metropolitan urbanized counties and from 54 to 65 in thinly populated areas. Scores were lowest in thinly populated counties in 2007 and 2009 and in less urbanized counties in 2011. Examination of 2011 mPINC scores by 7 domains of care revealed that hospitals in less urbanized counties had lower scores than those in metropolitan urbanized counties for feeding of breastfed infants, breastfeeding assistance, staff training, and structural and organizational aspects of care delivery; for 3 of these practices, scores were 10 or more points lower—breastfeeding assistance, structural and organizational aspects of care, and staff training. In contrast, hospitals in thinly populated areas had higher scores than in metropolitan areas for mother–infant contact and facility discharge care; differences were less than 10 points.


    Interventions that specifically target rural hospitals may reduce the gap in access to hospital maternity care practices supportive of breastfeeding by population density.

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