Five-Year Journey to Educate, Encourage Breastfeeding Results in Baby Friendly USA Designation for UHC

By Julie Perine on November 06, 2019 via

A five-year journey focusing on education and efforts to implement better practices has resulted in an international Baby Friendly USA recognition for United Hospital Center. More importantly, it has led to a healthier mindset.
“We started talking about this initiative five years ago – how we could ensure moms are educated about breastfeeding - how to get it going and keep it going; how we could kind of change the culture of our area,” said Lee Ann Romeo, childbirth educator and lactation counselor. “We have a lot of obesity, a lot of diabetes and high blood pressure. If we started out our babies in a healthy way with breast milk can help reduce the risks of all those things and change the culture.”
The UHC obstetrics and pediatrics department implemented the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, a policy change which required medical staff to participate in a 20-hour breastfeeding module, providing hands-on skills to assist new moms with breastfeeding. All obstetrics nurses and practitioners took a three-hour online course for further education.
“That took about a year and a half to get all that accomplished,” Romeo said. “We also had to enter into the offices and make sure mothers were getting educated on breastfeeding; that conversations were starting, educating about what the benefits are and giving them opportunity to get more intensive education.”
There was also a push for skin-to-skin post-delivery, even in the operating room following C-sections.  
UHC earns many accolades, but this recognition is something to be especially proud of, said Mark Povroznik, the hospital's chief quality officer.
“I think sometimes we think about certifications and we have in mind that someone filled out an application and here’s our little banner,” he said. “In this instance, that is certainly not the case.”
The Baby Friendly USA certification protocol was extensive and interactive.
“When we got through with all the prerequisites, we sat down with a Baby Friendly USA – two auditors who spent a day and a half with us, looking at policy, going room to room and interviewing every patient on the floor, as well as all providers in obstetrics and pediatrics,” Romeo said.
Statistics show that close to 80 percent of new moms delivering at UHC are breastfeeding and close to 50 percent are exclusively breastfeeding, not supplementing with formula.
It’s an old-school approach, coupled with new-age education.
“Moms coming in to deliver are already influenced by their moms and bringing breastfeeding back to the forefront requires not just talk, it requires a complete structural approach,” Povroznik said.
What is not often talked about, he said, is that breastfeeding results in fewer allergies among babies and lower cancer rates among moms, as well as lower childhood obesity and decreased cardiovascular disease.
“This true health initiative will be seen in future generations,” Povroznik said. “We had to start sometime and that sometime is now.”
Baby-Friendly USA, Inc., is the U.S. authority for the implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (“BFHI”), a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Based on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, this prestigious international award recognizes birth facilities that offer breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies.
There are more than 20,000 designated Baby-Friendlyhospitals and birth centers worldwide. Currently there are 585active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States. The “Baby-Friendly” re-designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey is completed. The award is maintained by continuing to practice the Ten Steps as demonstrated by quality processes.

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