“The bottom line is if a baby is born prematurely, mothers know the SPIN program is available here,” said UC San Diego spokeswoman Michelle Brubaker.
UCSD is not alone in promoting breastfeeding programs. Three major hospital systems in San Diego - Scripps Health, Sharp Healthcare and Palomar Pomerado Health –all have breastfeeding education programs in place that they promote on their Web sites. A 2010 study on breastfeeding conducted by the UC Davis Human Lactation Center found 87% of mothers who gave birth at Pomerado Health’s hospital in Poway left the hospital breastfeeding their babies, the eighth-highest rate in the state.
Promoting programs that provide advanced care for expectant mothers has become more important for hospitals in San Diego and throughout California, where birth rates have been in decline since the start of the recession. In 2009, the birth rate in California dropped 7%, the biggest decline in nearly 20 years.
California is also home to a disproportionate number of Baby Friendly Hospitals compiled by advocacy group Baby Friendly USA. Of the 105 hospitals in the U.S. listed as Baby Friendly – hospitals that maintain a high level of breastfeeding among new mothers – 34 are located in California.
From a marketing perspective, advanced breastfeeding programs don’t seem like a good investment, particularly at a time when hospitals are competing for a dwindling pool of expectant mothers. But an improving economy could make them more appealing.
The state of California’s Demographic Research Unit projects the state’s fertility rate will start to climb again now that the recession is over, with the number of births in California expected to increase 12% by 2019. So a program that promotes a higher level of care for mothers and their newborns could make sense at a time when birth rates are on the rise again.