UF Health Shands Hospital has been awarded the Baby-Friendly designation by Baby-Friendly USA, a global initiative of the World Health Organization and UNICEF that recognizes birthing facilities that implement specific breastfeeding procedures.
The hospital is the only academic health facility in the state of Florida, the seventh hospital in the state of Florida and the only one in North Central Florida to successfully implement all the required standards for this designation, which will allow the staff to educate and encourage skills that result in successful breastfeeding.
The guidelines are intended to provide mothers with the information, confidence and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or use formula safely.
The designation was awarded based on the outcome of a review of current practices at the hospital using an extensive set of criteria such as having and implementing a written standard that encourages breastfeeding, designating staff members to act as breastfeeding experts and ensuring that prenatal care includes education about the importance of breastfeeding.
The initiative encourages mothers and babies to stay together and in the same room for baths, during hearing tests and other practices that previously separated them.
“Mothers need to know we are prepared to assist them in their breastfeeding decisions,” said Kay Roussos-Ross, M.D, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the UF College of Medicine. “We work with them before and after their babies are born to create an atmosphere of support, ensuring that they are successful in their breastfeeding goals.”
In the past decade, studies have shown that breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for mothers and newborns. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding plays a role in reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Breast-fed babies also have lower rates of diarrhea and fewer respiratory tract infections, and they are less likely to develop Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia and other diseases.
Baby-Friendly hospitals educate mothers on the importance of breastfeeding, provide excellent maternity care and achieve optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding, according to Baby-Friendly USA.
To reach the goals of the Baby-Friendly designation, clinic and hospital staff at UF Health Shands Hospital received special training to be able to educate expectant or new mothers.
“Getting this program initiated was challenging,” said Sandra Sullivan, M.D., a clinical associate professor of pediatric research in the UF College of Medicine. “We transformed a culture through staff and management education, new procedures and training. The result is an environment that is truly baby-friendly.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding (from Baby-Friendly USA):
1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
2. Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
7. Practice rooming in — allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.