Mo. initiative promotes breastfeeding in hospitals

Oct 8, 2013

A hospital's interior
Credit fotos GOV/BA / Flickr

St. Mary’s Health Center in Jefferson City is one of several Missouri hospitals making procedural changes with newborn care to encourage new moms to breastfeed after they deliver. 

The changes come as the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services promotes its new Show-Me Five certification. Hospitals showing they meet five best practice standards regarding breastfeeding encouragement, at least 80 percent of the time, will receive the accreditation. St. Mary’s hopes to meet the standards and receive accreditation by early next year.

The five standards outlined in the Show-Me Five Initiative are taken from a larger national campaign by Baby-Friendly, USA. Baby-Friendly, USA is the accrediting body for the national Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. This initiative outlines 10 of the best practices for hospitals to encourage breastfeeding. The Missouri certification requires meeting a selected five of those 10.

The Show-Me Five standards include:

1.      Assist mothers with breastfeeding within one hour after delivery.

2.      Have newborns in room with the mother 23 of 24 hours a day.

3.      Unless medically necessary, baby’s food and drink is to be limited to breast milk.

4.      Stop use of pacifiers and artificial nipples, except if necessary during medical procedures.

5.      Provide access to breastfeeding support groups after mother has returned home.

St. Mary’s has been making changes in line with these standards over the past year. Becky Schwaller is a registered nurse and lactation consultant at the hospital, and is leading the push to get the hospital Show-Me Five certified. She explained many of the changes are small, but significant. Some of the changes include: washing and measuring the baby in the delivery room instead of moving the baby to a traditional nursery, removing pacifiers from cribs and emphasizing education amongst new parents.

Schwaller said the biggest challenge SMHC is facing is the room-in requirement. She believes, however, it is a good practice to have in place. Nurses are able to come in as needed to teach soothing techniques, and the increased time together allows parents to pick up on feeding cues more quickly.

“You’re really sending the parents home then more prepared and more confident with their parenting skills,” Schwaller said. “It’s really a good thing to keep the baby in the room with you after you deliver.”

There is a national push to adopt breastfeeding-friendly hospitals, and representatives with the Department of Health said they hope to see a similar effort locally. Ryan Hobart is spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Hobart said research continues to suggest enormous physical and cognitive benefits for both mothers and newborns as a result of breastfeeding. He explained that changing practices while admitted could alleviate obstacles surrounding breastfeeding after mothers are discharged.

“If they start these practices early right after the baby is born, they are more likely to continue them after they leave the hospital,” Hobart said.

Hannibal Hospital is currently the only Show-Me Five certified hospital in Missouri. The Department of Health and Senior Services hopes to see that number increase over the next year.