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Recognized for Supporting Moms and Babies: St. Luke’s Earns Baby-Friendly Designation

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St. Luke's Birthing Center staff accepts the Baby Friendly award this past OctoberPublished in Moms & Dads Today magazine, January/February 2018

Recognized for Supporting Moms and Babies

St. Luke’s Earns Baby-Friendly Designation

The term “Baby-Friendly” can be confusing. Of course, you hope every birthing center is friendly while caring for babies and their families. But to become a designated Baby-Friendly facility and be recognized by Baby-Friendly USA is a huge accomplishment. It means a hospital has made a significant effort to support the way babies and moms are set up for success when it comes to feeding, bonding and sleeping. After four years, and with the help of a guiding committee and the entire staff, St. Luke’s earned its Baby-Friendly designation in September 2017 and it goes through 2022.

“We’ve always taken great care of moms and babies but this initiative gives us the opportunity to better educate and support our moms, increasing their confidence and skills to care for their baby before leaving the hospital after delivery,” said Lori Swanson, RN, Maternal Child Health Nurse Manager.

According to Baby-Friendly USA, the accrediting body for the U.S. Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), “Becoming a Baby-Friendly facility is a comprehensive, detailed and thorough journey toward excellence in providing evidence-based maternity care with the goal of achieving optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding.”

“This initiative is helpful in giving moms the best support we can to breastfeed their baby, which is certainly not always an easy thing to do,” said Dr. Amanda Webb, St. Luke’s Pediatrician. “Moms need encouragement in order to not get easily frustrated and want to give up.”

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Swanson and Dr. Webb were part of the committee that helped guide St. Luke’s through this initiative. Some of the steps taken to earn the Baby-Friendly designation include educational learning for all Birthing Center care providers, a hands-on workshop, training, updated policies and practices, and adding personal support in a number of ways including a free breastfeeding support group. There is also more education offered in any clinic setting during prenatal visits to support moms in making the decisions best for them. St. Luke’s is now equipped to offer more opportunities, education and support for our new families.

“We now offer an AfterCare Clinic that St. Luke’s moms can visit for free any time and as many times as needed, breastfeeding support groups for moms, and on-staff lactation certified nurses,” Swanson said.

Another major shift is keeping mom and baby together after delivery, and getting them skin-to-skin as soon as possible (including after a cesarean section). Keeping baby nearby helps both mom and baby sleep better, and helps mom identify feeding cues early on.

“The whole idea is to promote cue-based feeding, which means mom recognizes when baby is hungry and initiates on baby’s schedule rather than watching the clock,” explained Dr. Webb. “We know that if you initiate feeding when baby is showing early signs of hunger, then that feeding and getting back to sleep after will be more successful.”

According to Baby-Friendly USA, recent studies have shown that women who breastfeed experience decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancer, anemia and osteoporosis. Breastfed children have far fewer and less serious illnesses than those who never receive breast milk, including a reduced risk of SIDS, childhood cancers and diabetes.

Already, Dr. Webb is noticing the positive influence of incorporating Baby-Friendly ideas into the care St. Luke’s provides. She’s seeing an increase in patients who are exclusively breastfeeding when bringing babies home and in how long breastfeeding continues. Both milestones provide important benefits to babies.

“As a pediatrician, I really want to emphasize health and wellness early, and prevent a problem before it begins,” Dr. Webb said. “Breastfeeding provides not only a lot of health benefits for the baby — such as a lower chance of obesity and infection — but there’s also important bonding that happens.”

Dr. Webb also acknowledges that breastfeeding isn’t the easiest thing in the world, so offering the guidance and support no matter what is a big part of her care.

Combined with the new St. Luke’s Birthing Center that created a warm, open environment, earning this designation is another step toward making sure families are comfortable and supported in their birth experience and beyond.