SSM Health Medical Minute – St. Mary’s Hospital receives ‘Baby-Friendly’ designation

Medical Minute
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ST. LOUIS – SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital was recently designated a Baby-Friendly® Hospital following a rigorous two-day, on-site assessment survey in which St. Mary’s Hospital staff demonstrated how they have successfully implemented the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, one of the major components of the designation.

Pam Lesser is the Director of Perinatal Services at St. Mary’s Hospital who tells us the process began more than four years ago with the support of the SSM Health system leadership who funded the application and the resources needed for the additional training hours for the labor and delivery team and for the on-site visit. Baby-Friendly® is sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF globally, but Baby-Friendly USA is the accrediting body and national authority in the United States responsible for coordinating and conducting all activities necessary to confer the designation.

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital is the SSM Health High-Risk Maternity Perinatal Center taking care of high-risk infants and high-risk moms.

Pam Lesser says the Baby-Friendly designation commits to supporting moms and babies in making healthy choices about feeding and the staff is committed to supporting moms and their babies in decisions about how to feed and best practices. “There are four different phases that happen step-by-step, much of it focused on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.” The Ten Steps including really supporting moms and their infant feeding choices to breastfeed.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are the broad framework which guide the BFHI. They were developed by a team of global experts and consist of evidence-based practices that have been shown to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration. The Ten Steps are:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  • Give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice rooming-in – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

There is a very arduous step of education for staff, provider and medical staff to show the hospital can support moms in their choices about feeding. St. Mary’s Hospital also supports moms with a special Weigh-In Wednesday support group to help moms track their progress, get advice and tips on all things breastfeeding and be able to weigh their babies before and after feeding to make sure feeding is on track and their infant is off to the right start. The Weigh-In Wednesday is a community support group open to all moms, whether you birthed at St. Mary’s Hospital or somewhere else. Many of the SSM Health hospitals offer similar support groups as well.

Only about 600 hospitals across the United States have received the designation. St. Mary’s Hospital is in an elite group as one of the first hospitals in St. Louis to join the effort with other SSM Hospitals committed to receiving designation as well.

To learn more about SSM Health St. Mary’s Maternity options, click here.

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