What does it mean to be a Baby-Friendly® hospital? Shouldn’t all hospitals be thought of as baby-friendly?
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. BFHI “assists hospitals in giving all mothers the information, confidence and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.”
The Baby-Friendly accreditation is based on Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Steps include: informing pregnant women about the benefits of breastfeeding, having a written breastfeeding policy, helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and training all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
“Our award-winning nurses and lactation staff provide our mothers with the tools they need. We believe all mothers should be treated with respect regardless of infant feeding choice,” says Fran Drigun, director, pediatric and women’s service lines, Atlantic Health System. “A mother’s infant feeding choice will be explored and education will be offered, but a mother’s final choice will be wholeheartedly respected and supported.”
BFHI is implemented in the U.S. by Baby- Friendly USA, Inc., which has accredited Overlook, Morristown and Newton medical centers as among only 10 hospitals in New Jersey to earn the Baby-Friendly designation. Chilton Medical Center is currently on its way to becoming accredited.
Baby- and Family-Friendly
In addition to being Baby-Friendly, Overlook Medical Center is family-friendly, too. The hospital provides a supportive and welcoming family-oriented environment, staffed by board-certified anesthesiologists, obstetricians, neonatologists, maternal-fetal specialists and nurse practitioners trained in the newest diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and on-site 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Expecting mothers and their families are welcome to register to tour the Frank and Mimi Walsh Maternity Center together.
Families can learn what to expect when expecting by taking parent education classes ranging from prenatal exercise to postpartum infant care. There are special classes for siblings and for grandparents as well.
In addition to having knowledgeable and trustworthy staff, Overlook Medical Center provides mothers-to-be with all the comforts of home, plus pampering with complimentary massage, aromatherapy and soothing music. During the family’s stay, the new parents are treated to a celebratory dinner. A loved one is welcome to stay overnight with the new mom and the baby in the room if they would like.
A wide variety of medically responsible birthing techniques, including hydrotherapy, water birth, birthing balls, peanut balls, squatting bars and birthing stools are available and staff will work with parents to create a birthing plan to meet their needs. “We also offer gentle cesarean section,” Drigun says, “which uses a clear drape so that the parents can see the baby being born. After delivery, if the mother and baby are stable, they can remain together in the operating room and continue skin-to-skin bonding in the recovery room.”