Baby-Friendly USA – What's all the hype about? by Meghan Lynch, MD, FACOG
Recently, Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital achieved “Baby-Friendly” designation from Baby-Friendly USA (babyfriendlyusa.org). While those of us on the medical staff who have been working hard for the last two years to reach this goal realize the importance of this status, it came to my attention that not all of our patients understand what this achievement means. “What's the deal with this Baby-Friendly stuff?” “Why is it so good?” “Does that mean I can't have an epidural?” “What if I can't breastfeed?” These are just a few of the questions my partners and I have been asked by patients. I hope that I can clarify any questions surrounding what Baby-Friendly means and how it is beneficial for all moms and babies.
Baby-Friendly is a program endorsed by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to help mothers initiate and sustain breastfeeding. Mothers who deliver at Baby-Friendly designated institutions are more likely to be successful at nursing than those who do not. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Breastfeeding has been shown to be beneficial for both babies and mothers. Benefits to mothers include: lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer, lower risk of heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis, helping with postpartum weight loss, helping to reduce post-partum bleeding, saving time and money and providing an opportunity to bond with her infant.
Benefits to babies include: decreasing the risk of sudden infant death syndromes (SIDS), and helping the newborn's digestive system grow and function. Another benefit: breast milk contains antibodies that help babies' immune systems fight infection–which means less respiratory infections, ear infections, diarrhea, asthma, obesity, allergies and colic.
Baby-Friendly consists of 10 steps that hospitals use to help educate and support new mothers and infants with breastfeeding. For example, mothers hold their infants skin to skin right after delivery, even in the OR after a cesarean section. Patients are still able to have an epidural if they desire one. The program also supports mothers who are unable to or choose not to breastfeed. In such circumstances, mothers are taught about safe handling and proper technique for alternate nutrition for their babies. In my experience, the vast majority of my patients enjoy the experience of delivering in a Baby-Friendly institution. New mothers and fathers alike enjoy the bonding time they experience with their newborn and become empowered by the knowledge they gain from the education they receive before, during and after delivery.
My practice, Mount Pleasant OB/GYN, is proud to be a part of Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital being the first hospital in Charleston to receive the Baby-Friendly designation.
To find a doctor that delivers at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital call 402-CARE.