St. Charles Bend and St. Charles Redmond have started the process to qualify as “Baby-Friendly” hospitals. The designation is important because it means a hospital has made a commitment to promote and support breast feeding, which has been shown to improve health outcomes for children over the long-term, in its policies and in its practices. This week Jay Henry, CEO of St. Charles Bend, and Bob Gomes, CEO of St. Charles Redmond, signed letters of intent to start the official Baby-Friendly Hospital designation process, which includes complying with ten steps outlined by the World Health Organization. The steps are:
1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
2. Train all health care staff in 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 newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless medically indicated.
7. Practice “rooming in,” allowing 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 clinic.
Both hospitals already follow many of these steps, but some of the processes need to be fine tuned, said Kristina Krabill, manager of the Family Birthing Center at St. Charles Bend. For example, both hospitals need to stop accepting donated formula and free products from formula companies. Krabill said the process will probably take a year or two to complete.
“By becoming Baby Friendly, we are supporting health choices that will affect mothers and babies in our community for their lifetime,” Krabill said.
Breastfeeding, she said, is important in the prevention of obesity, diabetes and chronic illness and can significantly change life-long health outcomes and impact the cost of US health care. Yet only about five percent of hospitals nationwide are designated as Baby-Friendly, and only five hospitals in Oregon currently hold the designation.
“By signing the letter of intent, St. Charles Health System is committed to putting evidence-based policies into place that will set up mothers and babies to successfully breastfeed for at least six months of life,” said Amy Hansen, manager of the Family Birthing Center at St. Charles Redmond. “We are aware of the hard work and challenges that lie ahead on this journey to becoming Baby Friendly, but we recognize that this is best for the infants and children of Central Oregon.”