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WellStar Cobb, Douglas and Kennestone hospitals are nearing the end of a four-year journey aimed at earning the prestigious Baby-Friendly designation. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global initiative of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Only 170 hospitals in the nation – and none in Georgia – hold the Baby-Friendly designation. The process to receive and retain the designation is rigorous; it includes adhering to the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which are:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
  • Train all healthcare staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  • Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice rooming in - allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.
“We have been working together as a System to change our processes to eliminate any barriers to breastfeeding and bonding,” said Michele Riggs, manager of Maternal and Infant Support Services, Kennestone. “It’s very difficult to attain and keep this designation, but it speaks volumes about a facility’s commitment to the health of mothers and babies.”

Riggs said the first step in the process was developing a System-wide, written infant feeding policy. “The policy ensures we are all doing and saying the same things. We’re proud of the policy – Baby-Friendly USA, which implements BFHI in the United .States, told us it was the best one they had ever read.”

The policy affects everyone at WellStar who comes in contact with mothers and babies at our hospitals. “Education is a huge element in the process,” explained Riggs, “and includes our volunteers, echo techs, physicians and Environmental Services team members – everyone who comes in contact with new mothers. Their positive comments to mothers offer encouragement and help bolster their confidence.”

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