In an effort to improve mother/infant bonding, a handful of hospitals in Arkansas are adopting the Baby-Friendly hospital initiative.
You might be thinking, “Well, isn’t it a given that all hospitals would be baby friendly?”
I had that thought as well until I learned the meaning behind the effort. And it’s a touching one.
First, it’s important to understand the Healthy Active Arkansas initiative, of which the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute is a partner. The collaborative includes many leaders across the state to promote wellness and help fight obesity in the state, explains Juli McWhorter, chief nursing officer at Northwest Medical Center-Willow Creek Women’s Hospital.
“Promotion of breastfeeding is one of the major initiatives,” she says. “It is a very big deal for this collaborative, and they are so excited for us and the state of Arkansas.”
Willow Creek was the first hospital in the state to achieve national accolades for this breastfeeding initiative.
“We have always been ‘Baby-Friendly,’” says Sharif Omar, CEO of Northwest Health. “This designation simply affirms our commitment to the safest and highest quality care for our newborns and moms at both of the Northwest Health hospitals since Willow Creek was the first to receive this recognition a few months ago. We were thrilled when Willow Creek was the first hospital in Arkansas and are even more elated now that our second facility, Northwest Medical Center – Bentonville, is the second in the state.”
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), according to a news release. 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.
The Northwest Medical Center news release points out that there are more than 20,000 designated Baby-Friendly hospitals worldwide and only 364 active Baby-Friendly centers in the United States.
The BFHI assists hospitals 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.
The designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey is completed. It is maintained by continuing to practice the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.
From a nurse’s standpoint, McWhorter says this effort helps improve mother-infant bonding by initiating the practice skin-to-skin contact.
“The World Health Organization recommends newborns spend the first hour of life in a skin-to-skin contact,” she says.
Benefits of this practice include better thermoregulation in the infant, decreased respiratory rate, blood glucose control, greater infant comfort and less infant crying. This practice also improves breastfeeding outcomes, McWhorter notes.
In turn, the relationship between health provider and patient or new mothers is improved as well.
“We’re promoting patient/family-centered care by allowing mothers and infants to remain together immediately after birth regardless of type of delivery,” McWhorter says.
“This helps support the mother in establishing breastfeeding through education and we’re offering breastfeeding support after discharge through outpatient visits and breastfeeding support groups.”
Overall, “we hope to improve mother and infant bonding and to improve patient outcomes by educating mothers of the benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and her newborn.”
Baptist Health is another hospital that is going baby-friendly. Jessiaca Donahue is an RN IBCLC Certified Lactation consultant at the Little Rock medical center. She is also the breastfeeding team lead for Healthy Active Arkansas. She explains that mothers who deliver their baby in a baby-friendly facility can be assured that all policies and procedures in place will support their feeding choice and that all staff is on board to help her be successful.
“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,” Donahue says.
“It compels facilities to examine, challenge and modify longstanding policies and procedures. It requires training and skill building among all levels of staff. It entails implementing audit processes to assure quality in all aspects of maternity care operations. The journey is exciting, challenging and worth it. It creates opportunities to develop high performance work teams and build leadership skills among staff, promotes employee pride, enhances patient satisfaction and improves health outcomes.”
At Baptist, there is Baby Friendly Committee in place, Donahue adds. It is on track to be awarded the Baby-Friendly certification by next year. Feedback, ideas and comments are welcome, she says. Contact her at 501.202.7378 or Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. You can also keep up with Baptist Health on Facebook for the latest developments.