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Is Your Hospital Baby Friendly?

September 10, 2010
Is your hospital 'Baby-Friendly?' TaRhonda Thomas http://www.9news.com/rss/article.aspx?storyid=146907 LAFAYETTE - Three-and-a-half-month-old Declan Olson freely gave smiles to all of the nurses and workers at Exempla Good Samaritan Hospital as they tickled and cooed at him. His mother, Realene, had always known one thing about the hospital: it is "Baby-Friendly." "That means a lot to me," she said, while rocking Declan in a designated breastfeeding room inside the hospital. Baby-Friendly is a designation created by the non-profit organization Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. It has been awarded to 92 U.S. hospitals that have made significant strides in encouraging new mothers to breastfeed. According to the World Health Organization, only 35 percent of babies get breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their lives. Aug. 1 through 7 is World Breastfeeding Week. It is being promoted by the World Health Organization which, in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), created the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative to encourage and recognize hospitals who "offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding," primarily focusing on breastfeeding. "I just love helping mothers meet their goals with breastfeeding," Exempla Good Samaritan Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Diane Heronema said. "It's really supporting breastfeeding mothers and we can start here and get them off to a great start." Studies have shown the nutrients provided in breast milk have the potential to reduce the risk of a baby's allergies, ear infections and potentially could lead to a higher IQ. Hospitals have to apply for the Baby-Friendly designation, which is upheld with an annual fee and requires those hospitals to implement a ten-step process. That process includes developing a written breastfeeding policy, training all health care staff and helping mother's initiate breastfeeding within the half hour of birth. To see the entire 10-step list, visit their website at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2010/breastfeeding_20100730/en/index.html. The steps also require that Baby-Friendly hospitals get no financial sponsorship from baby formula companies, who often give hospitals free formula to distribute to babies and mothers when they leave the hospital. "We purchase [our own formula] just like any medial product," Heronema said. The formula can be used for the estimated 8 percent to 10 percent of new mothers at the hospital who choose not to breastfeed. It is also used when medically directed as sustenance for ailing babies. Heronema also knows that some mothers who do not prefer to breastfeed can feel pressured into changing their decision. "It's about supplying the information and education on benefits, but also listening to and respecting them [the new mothers], and not forcing them to feel that they have to do that," she said. Olson knows not everyone is comfortable with mothers breast feeding. She says her decision to breastfeed surprised some family members who thought the practice was outdated. "[They said] things like 'Breastfeeding? I didn't think anyone still did that,'" she said. Support from her husband and close friends helped her to continue her efforts, even though she says the process wasn't easy in the beginning. "I think I would have given up if I didn't have the support of the lactation group," she said, adding she still attends the hospital's support groups for new mothers. Weighing in at 13 pounds, Declan is already seeing the benefits. "He's growing, healthy and he hasn't been sick," Olson said. "I think it's going really well for him." For a list of Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing centers across the country, visit: http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org/eng/03.html. (KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)