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Seeing Past Old Practices

The ancient peoples quickly found that one does not pour new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the wine would ferment and burst the skins. (Presumably, if they did not know, the consequences would become abundantly apparent!) Learning from experience, they used new wineskins for new wine. They learned from the evidence before their eyes that if they didn’t, the wine would be ruined, and the skins would be ruined.

Unquestionably, we all want to avoid ruination. What is less clear is whether we, in caring for breastfeeding mothers, allow ourselves and our clients to see the evidence before our eyes.

I continually encounter people–health care professionals in general, candidates for the IBLCE exam–trying to force the old ways of doing things onto today’s mothers and newborns. We have piles and piles of evidence to show the efficacy of hospital practices, such as rooming-in, early skin-to-skin contact and more, yet some give the impression that these practices are optional, unrelated to breastfeeding outcomes, or trumped by other factors presumed to be more important. Many continue to give out discharge packs containing formula, or to allow mothers to sleep through the night during their hospital stay because someone in the system values a “policy” or patient satisfaction survey result over the evidence. Yet we wonder why the rates of exclusive breastfeeding for newborns less than 1 month old continue to be so low!

Plenty of evidence shows that the continuation of these “old ways” has a ruinous effect on breastfeeding rates at 6 months.

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