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Emory University Hospital Midtown receives Baby-Friendly Hospital designation for setting standards for breastfeeding

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Janet Christenbury

Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM) has been officially designated a Baby-Friendly Hospital after meeting criteria for exceptional breastfeeding support for both mother and infant in the maternity setting. EUHM is only one of two hospitals in the state of Georgia to have the Baby-Friendly designation.

Becoming a Baby-Friendly facility is a comprehensive journey toward excellence in providing evidence-based maternity care with the goal of achieving optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding, according to Baby-Friendly, USA, Inc., which implements The Baby Friendly Health Initiative in the U.S. on behalf of The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

"Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. hospitals are designated Baby-Friendly," says Sino George, RNC, MSN, clinical nurse specialist in Emory's Maternity Center and Emory team lead for the Baby-Friendly designation. "This achievement proves that we are doing the right thing for mothers and their newborns by setting the standards for breastfeeding support and feeding substitutes."

Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers. Besides skin-to-skin contact and mother/baby bonding, human milk provides the optimal mix of nutrients and antibodies necessary for babies to thrive. Scientific studies have also shown that 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.

A team of Emory University Hospital Midtown nurses, physicians and lactation support staff began the journey to become a Baby-Friendly Hospital in 2012 by participating in a new national effort called Best Fed Beginnings. The nearly two-year initiative sought to improve breastfeeding rates in states with the lowest rates by implementing a proven model that better supports a new mother’s choice to breastfeed.

"For women who plan to breastfeed, the breastfeeding experience needs to begin in a supportive hospital program to give new mothers a good foundation for starting the process," says Ann Critz, MD, long-time medical director of nurseries and neonatologist at Emory University Hospital Midtown, who has recently retired. "This designation will set Emory University Hospital Midtown apart from others, as new mothers search for specialty hospitals that focus on newborn feeding excellence." Critz was one of the physician champions who confirmed the need for this special designation.

Emory OBGYNs, residents and staff and private practice OBGYNs and staff begin the process of educating new parents about the benefits of breastfeeding in prenatal visits, long before the baby arrives. The physicians and staff also inform patients what to expect in the hospital once they deliver, detailing what it means to deliver in a Baby-Friendly designated hospital.

"Collaboration and constant communication between both Emory and private practice OBGYNs at Emory University Hospital Midtown, along with residents and staff, have helped propel this journey forward to better assist new mothers and their babies," says Elizabeth (Betsy) Collins, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory, and physician lead on the project.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital designation lasts for a period of five years.

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