Washington Hospital One of Few U.S. Hospitals Recognized for Exceptional Support of Breastfeeding Moms and Babies
Baby-Friendly Hospital designation benefits health of families and community
Washington Hospital has been named a Baby-Friendly Hospital, a designation recognizing hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. Fewer than 175 hospitals in the U.S. are "Baby-Friendly."
We are very excited about becoming a Baby-Friendly Hospital. We've been working to achieve this designation for a long time, said Carmen Williams, RNC-OB, BSN, Manager of Maternal and Child Health and Washington Hospital. It affirms that we are providing the healthiest possible start for children and, ultimately, this is good for the entire community.
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). It recognizes and awards birthing facilities that successfully implement the Ten Steps of Successful Breastfeeding. The initiative is endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"The BFHI assists hospital in giving all mothers the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so," explains Baby-Friendly USA, the accrediting body for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in the U.S.
Breastfeeding is not just about babies, it's about children, added Bedgood. The positive health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life have been shown to continue with fewer, less serious childhood illnesses.
Studies also show that, as they grow up, breastfed babies tend to be less likely to suffer from chronic illnesses like diabetes or obesity. Besides the emotional benefits of the close relationship formed between breastfeeding mothers and babies, moms who breastfeed have been shown to experience decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancer, anemia and osteoporosis.
Helping more moms
Developed by a team of global experts, the Ten Steps of Successful Breastfeeding are practices that have proven to increase the number of mothers who breastfeed and how long they continue the practice. As of last September, 91 percent of new mothers at Washington Hospital were breastfeeding their babies.
At the Hospital, the nurses on the birthing and mother-baby units have made a major commitment to becoming Baby-Friendly. Their commitment is put it into action the moment a healthy baby comes into the world.
"Right after birth, when we used to think we had to do a lot of other steps like weighing and assessing the baby on the warming table, we now place the baby directly on the mother's chest, skin- to-skin, and this makes a big difference in starting the breastfeeding process in the best possible way, stated Debbie Hunt, R.N., another of the Hospital's lactation consultants.
Washington Hospital nurses follow this practice with all mothers who are in stable condition after giving birth vaginally or by cesarean deliveries.
The baby attaches onto the mother by the scent of the amniotic fluid that gets on her from the baby's skin and helps him to find the breast, she continued. We don't interrupt this process unless it is medically indicated. The nurses check the baby's vitals while he is on the mother's skin, and we bathe and weigh him later.
Placing the baby on the mother's chest right after birth also helps to regulate the baby's heart rate, breathing and blood sugar, Hunt added.
Mothers and babies together
While they are at Washington Hospital, mothers and babies stay together as much as possible so mom can get used to watching for cues from the baby as to when he wants to eat. Frequent feeding helps the breast make more milk later.
We support mothers at this important time, which makes the critical difference in long term milk supply, emphasized Hunt.
The Hospital's Birthing Center has a staff of trained lactation consultants who are available to new moms 16 or more hours each day. All certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, the consultants teach and support mothers in the breastfeeding process. The nurses teach mothers to overcome problems, such as latching difficulties, painful nursing or low milk production. They are also available by phone after moms and babies leave the hospital.
The nurses have done an outstanding job, commented Fiona Henderson, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist at Washington Hospital. "Being skin-to-skin right after birth makes a huge difference in the way babies transition, as well as affecting the bonding process. I've also noticed that, with the support they receive from the lactation consultants, mothers are tending to leave the hospital more confident about breastfeeding.
Although medical experts agree breastfeeding gives babies the healthiest possible start in life, there are times when exclusive breastfeeding isn't possible or a supplement is needed, due to health reasons or the mother's preference.
We advocate for exclusive breastfeeding, but as a Baby-Friendly hospital, our priority is to make sure all babies are being fed safely, said Hunt. "At Washington Hospital, we support each mother in making informed decisions about feeding her baby. If she decides to formula feed, we respect her decision."
In addition, we recognize that bottle-fed babies also benefit from the same skin-to-skin care we practice for babies who are breastfed, she added.
While a patient at Washington Hospital, new mothers are taught how to make formula safely. The Hospital does not allow any formula advertising.
What nature intended
The nurses at Washington Hospital are proud to be recognized for their dedication and teamwork in providing what is considered the gold standard to promote healthful, safe feeding for babies.
Lactation consultant Hunt summed it up this way: We're promoting an environment where babies and mothers can simply do what nature intended.
To learn more about Washington Hospital's Birthing Center, visit www.whhs.com/baby. To find out more about the Baby Friendly Initiative in the U.S., go to www.babyfriendlyusa.org.