Providing breastfeeding support helps increase lactation rates
Georgia has five Baby Friendly designated hospitals that have joined the World Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF initiative to support breastfeeding by being part of the Baby Friendly Initiative. DeKalb Medical Center, Emory at Midtown, Doctor’s Hospital (Augusta), Grady Health System and Piedmont-Henry Hospital are all proud to call themselves Baby Friendly.
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These hospitals worked hard to improve hospital practices to support breastfeeding. The basis of the Baby Friendly Initiative is to follow the “10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” created by the WHO and UNICEF to improve breastfeeding rates worldwide.
Though many mothers are choosing to breastfeed (rates are rising), many hospitals have policies in place that do not always support this decision. When a mother comes to the hospital choosing to breastfeed, she should receive education and support from staff and be discharged breastfeeding.
Critics may say not every mother will choose to breastfeed, and we should not force them or make them feel guilty about their feeding decision. Baby Friendly supports all mothers, no matter how they choose to feed their infant, but the health-care staff will ensure that her choice is an educated one.
These are the steps to become Baby Friendly:
Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health-care staff.
Train all health-care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
Practice “rooming-in”—allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them when they are discharged from the hospital or birth center.
Not all Georgia hospitals will implement every step, but for every step achieved, research shows breastfeeding rates increase. “Becoming Baby Friendly has been one part of DeKalb’s journey to become a family-focused obstetrical unit,” said Catherine Bonk, M.D., one of the lead Baby Friendly team members at DeKalb Medical. “We want our moms to have the birth experience they want. Breastfeeding, while only a part of that experience, is pivotal to a mother’s sense of success in her delivery. Baby Friendly helps moms maximize that sense of success with components such as skin-to-skin and rooming-in that are beneficial to all moms and families. I would recommend these components of the process to every labor and delivery unit.”
Encourage your hospital to strive toward the Baby Friendly Designation. Moms will soon be asking, “Is this hospital Baby Friendly?”