Philadelphia, PA — Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH) has been selected to participate in Best Fed Beginnings, a first-of-its-kind national effort to significantly improve breastfeeding rates in states where rates are currently the lowest.
Although breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers, half of US-born babies are given formula within the first week, and by nine months, only 31 percent of babies are breastfeeding at all. Together, PAH and Best Fed Beginnings seek to reverse these trends by dramatically increasing the number of US hospitals implementing a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother's choice to breastfeed. The National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort through a cooperative funding agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.
"Pennsylvania Hospital is delighted to have been chosen to participate in this initiative and to have this opportunity to better support breastfeeding families. This is an important public health initiative that will bring a tremendous benefit to Philadelphia's mother and babies." said Debi Page Ferrarello, RN, MS, IBCLC, director of Family Education at PAH. "We recognize the hospital experience strongly influences a mother's ability to start and continue breastfeeding and are committed to implementing evidence-based care through the Baby-Friendly designation process. This will ensure that mothers delivering in our facility who intend to breastfeed are fully supported."
In addition to PAH, 89 other hospitals are participating in this initiative and were selected from 235 applicants. The groups will work together in a 22-month learning collaborative, using proven quality improvement methods to transform their maternity care services in pursuit of a "Baby-Friendly" designation. This designation verifies that a hospital has comprehensively implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as established in the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Breastfeeding rates are higher and disparities in these rates are virtually eliminated in hospitals that achieve this status.
"We look forward to working with Pennsylvania Hospital and congratulate them on their successful application," said Charlie Homer, MD, MPH, president and CEO of NICHQ. "The large number of applications we receive affirms the commitment of hospitals across our country to be part of a health care system that truly focuses on promoting health for women and infants. We are especially pleased that we received so many applications from hospitals in states where there are so few facilities with Baby-Friendly designation and from hospitals that serve populations of women who now are much less likely to breastfeed."
Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers. For infants, it decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. It also decreases infants' risk of becoming obese later in childhood. Babies breastfed for at least their first six months have less gastric distress such as spitting up and diarrhea. More impressive is that they have fewer ear, respiratory tract and urinary tract infections, plus fewer allergies, a lower risk of diabetes and higher IQ scores. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding also offers some protection from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and obesity.
Breastfeeding moms see benefits too. They snap back in shape faster after giving birth. Their risk of breast and ovarian cancer is reduced along with their risk of osteoporosis, hip fractures, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
In addition to health benefits for mom and baby, breastfeeding is economical (regarding time and money), convenient and environmentally friendly. It's employer friendly too. Bottom line: women who breastfeed and work for an accommodating employer are more productive. Because of the health benefits for both mother and child, breastfeeding women miss less work days as both are sick less often.
Click here for a list of all 90 hospitals selected to participate in Best Fed Beginnings.