MU Women's and Children's Hospital joins program to increase breastfeeding rates

Wednesday, July 4, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:13 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 4, 2012

COLUMBIA — The MU Women’s and Children’s Hospital is joining a national effort to increase breastfeeding rates in Columbia.

On Friday, The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality, the organization spearheading the effort, chose 90 hospitals nationwide to participate in the Best Fed Beginnings program on Friday. The program aims to help hospitals improve maternity care practices in pursuit of a Baby-Friendly designation. 

The children’s hospital is joined by two other hospitals in Missouri participating in the program — Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and Truman Medical Center in Kansas City. Through the program, the participating hospitals will take part in a 22-month long learning collaborative process to learn how to increase the number of infants who are breastfed.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Breastfeeding Report Card for 2010, Missouri’s breastfeeding rate in 2007 was 72.6 percent. This measure was based on if mothers ever breastfed their infants. The state’s rate of any breastfeeding at six months (a key measure for the project) was 38.2 percent.

"I am glad they joined this program," said Kristy Crim, a first-time mom. "There is so much information that you receive in the beginning. I think that the first information from the hospital was incredibly helpful."

Crim had a difficult time when she wanted to breastfeed her first baby. "I thought it would just come naturally, but it did not," she said.

Many mothers decide to use formula instead of breastfeeding since it is more convenient and fast. But breastfeeding has many advantages to both babies and mothers.

"I cannot breastfeed my son because he just did not suck at all," said Chunfeng Mao, an MU biochemistry research scientist, said. "But I know there are many benefits from breastfeeding, such as antibodies that formulas cannot provide."

As part of the program, the children’s hospital will implement the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations for successful breastfeeding. Called "The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding," the program tells hospitals how to set up support groups and find out the right way to promote breastfeeding.

The program's 10 steps instruct hospitals to:

  • Have written versions of breastfeeding policy for all health care staff. 
  • Have training programs for heath care staff to be able to carry out those polices. 
  • Always inform pregnant women of the advantages of breastfeeding. 
  • Help mothers start breastfeeding within an hour of babies' births. 
  • Teach mothers how to maintain lactation and the basics of breastfeeding even when they are not with their babies. 
  • Always give infants breast milk as their only food, unless doing otherwise is a medical necessity. 
  • Practice "room in," which means letting mothers and infants stay together 24 hours a day. 
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand. 
  • Tell mothers not to give artificial nipples to infants. 
  • Establish breastfeeding support groups to help mothers.

Jonathan Small, director of marketing and communications for the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality, said there are three criteria the organization looks for when choosing the hospitals for the program.

According to the initiative, the first criteria is the hospital’s strong commitment to the goal of improving breastfeeding rates. The second criteria is that the hospital is located in a state where breastfeeding rates are low. Third, they want hospitals that have large numbers of births.

Supervising editor is Ann Elise Taylor

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