First comes pregnancy, then comes...deciding where you will have your baby. Or for many women, this decision happens before becoming pregnant. One of the biggest influencers of this decision will likely be the level of care that the hospital or birthing center provides. These days, women are advocating for themselves in ways that are encouraging hospitals to step up to the challenge of making sure that the education and maternity services provided are top notch and this of course includes providing resources to new moms, especially when it comes to feeding their newborn.
As of December of 2015, Penn Medicine’s Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH) and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), along with Lancaster General Hospital (LGH), have officially been declared baby friendly hospitals. A baby-friendly hospital is a hospital that promotes the maximum level of care possible to ensure the best infant feeding and mother/baby bonding practices are in order. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1991 and today, PAH, HUP and LGH join 358 other US hospitals that have achieved baby-friendly status. Here are some of the benefits that giving birth in a Baby-Friendly hospital can provide:
Promotion of Breastfeeding
A baby-friendly hospital will encourage all pregnant women and new moms to breastfeed their babies. In order to receive their accreditation, baby-friendly hospitals are required to educate women on why breastfeeding is the best feeding method for their babies. This encouragement is provided through access to support services such as lactation consultants during your hospital stay and beyond, specialized nursing staff and other educational resources to help inform you about this method of feeding.
A highly-Trained Healthcare Staff
When you are pregnant and/or shortly after giving birth you may be assigned one designated nurse or lactation nurse, but that doesn’t mean that he or she is the ONLY one educated on breastfeeding and the best practices for caring for a newborn; in order to become a baby-friendly hospital, several members of the hospital staff are required to undergo no less than 20 hours of training to help inform them on the best practices for promoting breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding. In addition, other members of healthcare staff such as pharmacists and radiologists may undergo training so that they will be aware of which medications they can and can’t prescribe to breastfeeding mothers, safe use of radiology during lactation, and more.
There is no need to be concerned about breastfeeding at a baby-friendly hospital. You can be confident that you will be provided with extensive breastfeeding training, including proper breast care how to initiate breastfeeding, positioning for comfortable breastfeeding, how to attach your baby for breastfeeding, how to improve your milk intake and milk production, caring for and treating sore nipples, and more.
“The most common issue I see is mothers complaining of discomfort with latch. Usually, that’s due to improper latch, so the role of the nurse or lactation nurse is to improve the technique,” says Jennifer Kelly-Connolly, MSN, RN, Childbirth Education Coordinator, Certified Childbirth Educator and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
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Bonding Through Feeding
At times, the feeding schedule for a baby born at a baby-friendly hospital may seem a bit intense, especially for women who choose to breastfeed. Baby-friendly hospitals advise women to begin breastfeeding their babies within one hour from giving birth to help them to bond with their babies. Breastfeeding moms learn to breastfeed their babies on demand and nurses will assist new moms with recognizing the signs that indicate that their baby is ready for another feeding. Their babies will not be fed any other types of food/drinks (such as formula) in lieu of breast milk unless a medical condition prevents it. Although this feeding schedule can be difficult to keep up with, the goal of a baby-friendly hospital is to encourage moms to breastfeed their babies and for their babies to become accustomed to breast milk - the healthiest source of nutrition for babies. Moms who choose not to breastfeed for whatever reason will still be provided with resources, training, and education on the best practices for bottle-feeding their babies to ensure that their babies receive the proper nutrition and are fed an appropriate amount at appropriate times.
Limited Time in the Nursery
Women won’t be turned away from the nursery in a baby-friendly hospital, but baby and mom are encouraged to stay together throughout their time in the hospital. Rooming in is a practice that encourages mom and baby to remain together for 24 hours a day and is recommended for all women regardless of whether or not they decide to breastfeed so that mom and baby can create a stronger bond.
A Pacifier-Free Zone
If you decide to breastfeed, pacifiers and artificial nipples will be strongly discouraged. Artificial nipples and pacifiers can confuse or discourage babies from taking to breastfeeding. Lactation nurses will work to educate new moms on other ways to help comfort baby while encouraging breastfeeding.
The care, training, and support you receive in the hospital is just the beginning. You’ll never have to worry about not knowing what to do post-discharge. A baby-friendly hospital will give its patients access to breastfeeding support groups, trainings, and other resources. Women will also always have the option of calling a board certified lactation consultant.
“All of us here do phone call services, so we give them what we call the ‘warm line’ and they can call us 24 hours a day. If we feel like they need to see someone on a one-to-one basis, we’ll give them references out in the community – there are a lot of private lactation consultants that come to your home, so we have a long list of nurses that do that,” Jennifer explains.
Baby-friendly hospitals are unique hospitals that provide new moms and their babies with the best possible care. When you choose to give birth at a baby-friendly hospital such as Pennsylvania Hospital, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania or Lancaster General, you will be guaranteed the highest level of support, care, and service for you and your baby.