Over four years ago, we started on the path to becoming a Baby-Friendly® facility. It’s been a long journey that brought both challenges and improvements, but I’m proud to say that this hard work has paid off. St. Luke’s Birthing Center is now a Baby-Friendly Designated hospital, which means we provide education, opportunity and support to new moms while honoring all their personal preferences for their birth experience.
What does it mean to be “Baby-Friendly?” Here’s how Baby-Friendly USA, the accrediting body for the U.S. Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), describes it:
Becoming a Baby-Friendly facility is a comprehensive, detailed and thorough journey toward excellence in providing evidence-based maternity care with the goal of achieving optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). To start this process, we implemented the steps that this program lays out for hospitals.
More than a list of boxes to check, this process was about a culture shift. We set out with the goal of increasing opportunity for moms to enhance their confidence and skills when it comes to feeding their infant. A combination of new features and existing offerings came together to help us earn this designation:
- Educational learning for any nurse or provider who may care for new moms or infants
- A hands-on workshop for all staff to practice skills and demonstrate competency ranging from hand expression to safe formula preparation
- Training on how to provide the education and support moms need
- Updating hospital policies and modifying long-standing practices
- Offering a free breastfeeding support group to moms
- An AfterCare Clinic that moms can visit or call as many times as needed after delivery (also free)
- On-staff lactation consultants, specialists, educators and even International Board Certified Lactation Consultants
- Keeping mom and baby together after delivery, and getting them skin-to-skin as soon as possible (including after a cesarean section)
Our approach was to work through the steps slowly and carefully so we could still honor our mission: The Patient. Above All Else. We knew that if we provided all of the support we could, our moms would have better outcomes with feeding and bonding on whatever path they feel is right for them.
Some birthing centers that have earned the Baby-Friendly Designation may choose to close their nursery. That is not the case for St. Luke’s. In addition to our nursery in the Birthing Center, we also have a Specialized Care Nursery that provides advanced care to newborns.
The Results Are In
Already, we’ve seen an increase in breastfeeding rates, which means positive benefits for both mom and baby. According to Baby-Friendly USA, recent studies have shown:
- Women who breastfeed enjoy decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancer, anemia and osteoporosis
- Breastfed children have far fewer and less serious illnesses than those who never receive breast milk, including a reduced risk of SIDS, childhood cancers and diabetes
For St. Luke’s, implementing the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative just made sense. It aligns with other efforts we’ve made in recent years to enhance patient experience, such as offering Nitrous Oxide to laboring moms, implementing the option of Aromatherapy, or being named the first Silver Safe Sleep Leader in MN by the National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program.
We’ve always been committed to taking great care of moms and babies. Part of that promise means making improvements whenever possible so that we can maintain our patient focus.
Baby-Friendly® is a registered certification mark of Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. The term “Baby-Friendly” is reserved for use by facilities who have demonstrated through an on-site assessment that they have met the criteria outlined in the most current version of the Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria. Click here to read BFUSA’s position on endorsements of products and services.