Breast-feeding gets support from hospitals

Several hospitals across the region are making changes to help new parents choose breast-feeding and stick with it.

[An earlier version of this story erroneously described the birth center that had earned the only “Baby-Friendly” certification in PA as a hospital. This is the corrected version.]

Several hospitals across the region are making changes to help new parents choose breast-feeding and stick with it.

Registered nurse Gail Smith is a lactation consultant with Delaware’s Bayhealth Medical Center.

She says many medical workers understand the health benefits of breast milk but don’t know how to support a new mom who is struggling.

“When you go through nursing school, you get barely any information about lactation or about newborn behaviors in regards to breastfeeding. So what nurses know is on the fly,” Smith said.

When hospitals adopt 10 changes to encourage breast-feeding, the World Health Organization dubs them “Baby-Friendly.”

The changes include more education for hospital staff, helping newborns latch on in the very first hour after birth and allowing babies to “room in” with mom.

“Having the babies in the rooms with the mom is a big thing because this mom and baby need to become close dance partners. They need to read each other’s cues and signs intimately,” Smith said.

The WHO certification also requires hospitals to decline donations from baby formula manufacturers.

Pediatrician Robert Karch, a nutrition consultant with Nemours Health and Prevention Services, says that change could be pricey for hospitals, but it’s necessary.

“There is an implicit endorsement on the part of the hospital in accepting free formula from the formula manufacturers, and then sending parents home with formula samples in their discharge bags,” he said.

A birth center in Reading is the only Pennsylvania site with the “Baby-Friendly” certification. Karch says in Delaware three hospitals are taking steps to earn that recognition.

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