MIAMI VALLEY — About 60 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their infants in the days following delivery at Premier Health hospitals, significantly above the state average.
The breastfeeding rate represents an increase of 12 percentage points from a year earlier, putting Premier Health’s breastfeeding rate at discharge significantly higher than the state average rate of 53 percent at hospital discharge.
As a result of these strides, maternity programs at all Premier Health hospitals are being recognized today through a statewide program for their work in strengthening the bond between mothers and infants. The breastfeeding initiative, First Steps for Healthy Babies, was launched by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association.
“Our staffs have shown impressive teamwork during the past year to reach this milestone,” said Teri Gulker, director of nursing at Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC). “This recognition is a testament to their dedication.”
Among the hospitals recognized for promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding are UVMC; Miami Valley Hospital, with an additional site at Miami Valley Hospital South; Good Samaritan Hospital; and Atrium Medical Center.
“Breast milk benefits babies with its mix of nutrients, protein and fat,” Gulker said. “It is easily digestible, and its anti-infective properties help newborns fend off infection.”
The incidence of asthma, allergies, respiratory illness and ear infections is also lower in babies that are breastfed, Belcastro said. And research suggests that breastfeeding lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and other medical conditions.
The benefits don’t end there.
“Breastfeeding also boosts the health of mothers,” says William Rettig, M.D., chair of the Premier Health Women’s Health Institute. “It helps women lose pregnancy weight more quickly while reducing their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, not to mention osteoporosis.”
Through the First Steps program, hospitals are encouraged to adopt measures such as having a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff; showing mothers how to breastfeed; helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth; informing pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding; avoiding the use of pacifiers and artificial nipples with breastfeeding infants; and fostering the establishment of breastfeeding support groups.
Premier’s hospitals also have removed free infant formula samples and formula company-branded diaper bags and goods from their facilities. The hospitals have been recognized as “bag-free” facilities by First Steps for Healthy Babies in partnership with the Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance and the Ohio Lactation Consultant Association.
“We commend Premier Health hospitals for taking a strong initiative to achieve recognition in the First Steps program through implementation of best practices to support breastfeeding,” said Ryan Everett, director of population health, OHA. “Ohio hospitals are ideal partners to help address Ohio’s infant mortality rate and engage patients and the community with effective clinical and professional resources.”
In recognition of the importance of these programs, Premier Health offers lactation consultants and other resources to assist mothers one-on-one or through breastfeeding classes.
For more information about Premier’s services, visit premierhealth.com/maternity, premierhealth.com/breastfeeding or call 937-208-BABY to register for classes. For more information about Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies, visit ohiohospitals.org/ohiofirststeps