The movement to get mothers to breastfeed their newborns for the first six months of life has been around for decades. Yet, the United States lags behind the rest of the world in making its hospitals more baby friendly.
Currently, only about 200 hospitals in the country out of thousands are labeled as "baby-friendly," a designation made by nonprofit, Albany, N.Y.-based Baby-Friendly USA, and endorsed by various entities, including the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Such hospitals are doing everything in their power to foster an environment where moms can naturally feed their newborns, which, studies have shown, can help to decrease various ailments in the baby, including obesity, diabetes and asthma, along with various other benefits.
With all that in mind, the American Hospital Association's Section for Maternal and Child Health is teaming up with the National Institute for Children's Health Quality to host a webinar Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET on the topic. Bonnie Connors Jellen, director of the AHA section, says the session is for more than just hospital directors of women's health or pediatric nurses.
"Hospital CEOs have a role in this, too, because their leadership and sign-off on the journey to become a baby-friendly hospital is key. It's imperative," she says. "I suspect it's going to be a varied audience, because that's what it takes to pull off the process of becoming baby-friendly. It requires leadership and commitment at all levels of the hospital."
Tuesday's Web meeting will include a breakdown of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, words of wisdom from Providence Hospital President and CEO Amy Freeman, and a rundown of the 10 steps that a hospital must do to implement a successful breastfeeding program.
The first key step along the way is having a written policy in place, Connors Jellen says, that is communicated to all staff on a regular basis. Breastfeeding rates remain disappointing at U.S. hospitals, she believes, because of a lack of education of both staff and patients. Doing so must start early because, by the time a mother is in a maternity award giving birth, it's probably too late.
One thing that Connors Jellen hopes attendees take from the webinar is the importance of leadership in making the move toward baby-friendly practices.
"In order to succeed or even begin this journey, you need a passionate leader," she says. "It could be the CEO, it could be the CMO, it could be a staff nurse. But just like any kind of positive change, one person can make a difference and lead the charge. You can start this and make this happen in your hospital."
What are leaders doing to make your hospital more baby-friendly for mothers and their newborns? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.