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The Catalyst

MUSC among four S.C. hospitals named baby-friendly

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

During the Nov. 14 Birth Outcomes Initiative Symposium in Columbia, the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recognized MUSC among the first four South Carolina hospitals to earn the designation of Baby–Friendly for efforts to improve children’s health through breast-feeding. Only 170 hospitals nationwide have earned this designation.

An MUSC Children’s Hospital contingent joins members of Roper St. Francis–Mount Pleasant Hospital, Waccamaw Community Hospital and Georgetown Memorial Hospital as South Carolina Baby–Friendly designated hospitals. photo provided

The Baby–Friendly certification is the highest designation awarded to hospitals by an accrediting body that promotes best practices for maternity care and it is only awarded after a rigorous on-site inspection where a hospital’s policies, practices and procedures are examined to ensure they are complete.

“We are proud to recognize these hospitals for their achievement of the Baby–Friendly designation,” said Tony Keck, Director of SCDHHS. “We appreciate these hospitals’ efforts to promote maternal and infant health as part of South Carolina’s ongoing commitment to reduce infant mortality.”

A global program launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the Baby–Friendly Hospital Initiative encourages hospitals that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding as well as mother and baby bonding.

MUSC was awarded $200,000 for successfully meeting the criteria to earn the certification by September 30. Baby–Friendly hospitals utilize the Ten Steps to Successful Breast–feeding, a joint WHO and UNICEF statement, which stresses to expectant mothers the importance of breast–feeding over formula and the numerous health benefits of breast–feeding. The Ten Steps are endorsed and promoted by the major maternal and child health authorities in the United States, including the CDC, the National WIC Association, U.S. Surgeon General, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Nurse–Midwives.

Through the Ten Steps program, expectant mothers are educated on proper techniques and to begin breast–feeding before an infant is an hour old. Other steps involve putting babies in skin–to–skin contact with their mothers immediately after birth; keeping an infant in the mother’s hospital room, rather sending them to the nursery; and educating hospital staff on procedures to better support new families and breast-feeding mothers.

While earning this designation may seem an easy task, Sarah Taylor M.D., Department of Pediatrics, explains otherwise. Many of the hospitals involved in the initiative deliver approximately 100 babies a year and the babies’ mothers are healthy. MUSC, however, performs more than 2,100 deliveries per year, many of which are high-risk, and mothers or babies are sick, she said.

“Many people said that it was impossible for a large, academic center to achieve Baby–Friendly status. By reaching this, MUSC did not just change what was possible but changed the impossible to possible. We have our work cut out for us to sustain our efforts, but now we know that we can do it,” Taylor said.

Only seven percent of U.S. babies are born in Baby–Friendly hospitals. These hospitals have demonstrated best practices in the care of mothers and newborns and have improved breast–feeding rates, which are critical to the health of a newborn.

Creating Baby–Friendly hospitals provides tangible solutions that will improve the health of mothers and babies in South Carolina. According to the National Institutes of Health, children who were breast-fed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between 28 days and one year than children who weren't breast–fed. Research also shows that breastmilk contains antibodies that protect newborns from infections, and breast–fed babies are less likely to develop a number of illnesses to which they may otherwise be susceptible.

“Being a Baby–Friendly Hospital gives us a wonderful opportunity to make a real difference in the long–term health of mothers and babies. Infants experience less gastrointestinal and respiratory illness, and have 36 percent decreased odds of SIDS. Mothers receive not only a decreased risk of cancer, but also a long–term decreased risk of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Breast–feeding is a solid preventative health strategy for both infant and mother,” said Taylor.

While these practices are the gold standard, they are more difficult to achieve today than in the past.

“Breast–feeding has been successful for centuries as it was the main source of sustenance for an infant. The difference now is that, yes, breast-feeding is natural, but it is not natural in the unnatural world that we live in today. Do mothers lay quietly with their infants and bond for the days after delivery? No, they entertain many visitors, are constantly connected to electronics, and are managing a house and the stress of heading back to work in a few weeks. I know this because I have been that mom! Since we are no longer ‘natural,’ we have to ‘learn’ how to breast-feed. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative provides proven, evidence-based strategies to give mothers what they need for breast–feeding success,” she said.

“Now that we have improved in-hospital breast–feeding support, we need to concentrate on post-hospitalization lactation support. The Lowcountry lacks well-established lactation support systems that are readily available and economical,” she said.

December 12, 2013

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