A major change in the life of infants in the United States over the past quarter-century has been increased rates of breastfeeding. For example, the CDC reports that since 1990, the percentage of children who were ever breastfed increased from around 50 to over 81% in 2016.
Those rates continue to rise, in part due to initiatives like “First Steps for Healthy Babies,” led by the Ohio Hospital Association and the Ohio Department of Health.
Recently, those organizations named St. Luke’s Hospital—and its Family Birthing Center—as a “5-star Maternity Center.” St. Luke’s is the only hospital in the area to receive this honor.
“This has been an important initiative at St. Luke’s,” said Sharon Bryson, BSN, RNC, manager of the Family Birthing Center. “Breastfeeding has many proven health benefits, and we promote it as part of our mission to improve the health of our patients.”
The “First Steps for Healthy Babies” awards one star for the completion of every two steps in the “Ten Steps for Successful Breastfeeding,” which is adopted from the World Health Organization and Baby-Friendly USA. To earn five stars, St. Luke’s implemented each of the steps below:
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.
“First Steps for Healthy Babies” supports Ohio’s Healthy People 2020 goals and aligns with Ohio’s Plan to Prevent and Reduce Chronic Disease: 2014-2018. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants are breastfed exclusively for about the first six months of life and that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire.
“Our Family Birthing Center turned 20 years old this year,” said Dan Wakeman, President and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital. “This recognition tells families that we provide the highest quality of care and continually strive for the best health outcomes.”❦