(HealthDay News) — Key practices that support breastfeeding are much less common in medical centers where the black population is higher than average, according to a report published in the August 22 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The researchers linked data from a 2011 U.S. survey on maternity practices in infant care and nutrition to U.S. Census data on the percentage of blacks living within the zip code area of a given health care facility. Looking at more than 2,600 maternity centers overall, the investigators found a wide variation in implementation of 10 policies that support breastfeeding.

Limited use of breastfeeding supplements was half as likely in hospitals in the more racially diverse neighborhoods (13%) compared with hospitals in neighborhoods with more white residents, the findings showed. And having the baby stay in the room with the mother was standard practice at about 28% of hospitals in neighborhoods with more black residents compared to 39 percent of centers in areas with more white residents.

“These findings suggest there are racial disparities in access to maternity care practices known to support breastfeeding,” the study authors write. “All facilities, regardless of the racial/ethnic composition of the populations they serve, can support the breastfeeding decisions of their patients by implementing evidence-based policies and practices shown to be critical for establishing breastfeeding.”

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