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Media Release: CBS's Chicago Hope Airs Inaccurate Information about the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

Contact: Cindy Turner-Maffei or Anna Cadwell at 508-888-8044

Sandwich, MA (October 1998) -Baby-Friendly USA, a non-profit corporation that encourages and recognizes optimal care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies, is strongly concerned about the October 21, 1998 episode of "Chicago Hope," a fictional television drama.

In that episode, an infant's death is attributed to inadequate breastmilk supply and the mother's supposed "Baby-Friendly contract" not to supplement her breastfed infant. "This is a gross misrepresentation of the health impact of breastfeeding, the proper management of breastfeeding and of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative," said Karin Cadwell, PhD, RN, the corporation's chief operating officer and an internationally recognized authority on breastfeeding and human lactation. Dr. Cadwell noted that "the sensationalism of the baby's death and the misinformation about the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative overwhelm the positive words of one or two staff members."

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) which recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that take steps to promote, protect and support breastfeeding through implementation of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Participation in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a voluntary choice made by facilities wishing to increase quality of care. Worldwide, almost 14,000 hospitals and birth centers have received the international Baby-Friendly award; fifteen of these are in the United States. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative respects a woman's right to make an informed choice about infant feeding.

Characters in the "Chicago Hope" episode allude repeatedly to a "Baby-Friendly contract," a fictitious document which supposedly required the mother to give no formula to her infant. No part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative requires, encourages or implies that mothers should sign contracts promising not to supplement their infants. The goal of the Initiative is not to force mothers to exclusively breastfeed, but rather to encourage hospitals to offer high-quality care for those families who elect to breastfeed.

Audrey Naylor, MD, DrPH, eminent pediatrician, CEO of Wellstart International, and founding board member of Baby-Friendly USA, stated "While the program did appropriately note that the fictitious family did not follow the advice given to contact their infant's health care provider, 'Chicago Hope' missed an opportunity to educate millions of viewers about proper follow-up care of all newborn infants. Regardless of feeding method, no infant should go six weeks without an evaluation."

Public health authorities around the world affirm the health benefits of breastfeeding and the important role of health care professionals and institutions in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics published a statement documenting the "diverse and compelling advantages to infants, mothers, families and society from breastfeeding and use of human milk for infant feeding." UNICEF states that 1.5 million lives could be saved annually by improved breastfeeding incidence and duration.

Dr. Cadwell concluded, "It is truly unfortunate that this fictional drama has cast doubt upon the intent of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative as well as upon the well documented life-saving benefits of properly managed breastfeeding for the vast majority of mothers and babies."

Information on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is available from Baby-Friendly USA, 8 Jan Sebastian Way #13, Sandwich, MA 02563. Phone (508) 888-8044. Fax (508) 888-8050. Email Website

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