Baby-Friendly hospitals help more moms breastfeed
Moms want what’s best for their newborn baby, and hospitals are attempting help through the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
The global program launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund in 1991 encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding.
Approximately 269 U.S. hospitals and birthing centers in 47 states and the District of Columbia hold the breastfeeding designation, according to Baby Friendly U.S.A., the accrediting body for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. In 2007, less than 3 percent of U.S. births occurred in Baby-Friendly facilities, but today that number has risen to more than 13 percent.
Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago is currently going through the certification process now after Baby-Friendly officials visited the hospital this spring.
“The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative ensures that the hospital is providing the very best breastfeeding practices to the women that deliver there,” says MaryAnn Neumann, advance practice nurse for Women and Infant Services at Advocate Trinity Hospital.
Mothers who give birth at Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing centers are more likely to initiate exclusive breastfeeding and sustain breastfeeding at six months and one-years-old, perhaps because of the institutional support for breastfeeding at these facilities, according to Baby-Friendly USA.
Breast milk provides complete nutrition for babies that is essential for their health, growth and development that formula can’t duplicate, Neumann says.
“Breastfeeding is especially important in communities where support has been traditionally lacking,” Neumann says. “Women who are young, have a lower economic status or are African American have been shown to have a lower breastfeeding rate overall.”
There are several criteria to becoming Baby-Friendly certified, including informing all pregnant patients about breastfeeding benefits and management. A hospital must also help willing new mothers initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes of birth. The certification recognizes and awards birthing facilities that offer breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully breastfeed their babies.
“I joke with my patients that I was formula fed and I turned out to be a doctor, but just look what I could have been if I was breastfed,” said Dr. Judith Cothran, obstetrician/gynecologist at Advocate Trinity Hospital. “It lightens the mood when the conversation starts about breastfeeding versus formula, but it also gives me a nice opening to talk about the issue.”
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