Aug 03, 2012 9:00 AM

Author: Elizabeth Smith

This year is the twentieth anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week. In 1992 the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) launched the World Breastfeeding Week campaign to focus and facilitate actions to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. From that time forward, WABA has focused on various breastfeeding topics/issues to highlight the importance. This year, World Breastfeeding Week (August 1–7) will celebrate the progress that has been made on the implementation of Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding (GSIYCF).

Why Increase Breastfeeding?

Breast milk and exclusive breast-milk feeding are a public health priority. Populations with exclusive breastfeeding rates above 90 percent will result in saving the lives of 911 babies per year along with decreasing illness and hospitalizations. Breastfed babies have fewer ear infections, diarrhea, asthma, diabetes, obesity, allergies and a whole host of other illnesses. The protection from breast milk is a lifetime protection. Moms who breastfeed lessen their chances of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. 

National and international strategies to increase breastfeeding came about due to poor infant and childhood nutrition. Formula companies supplied third world countries with their formulas without offering adequate education to caregivers about preparation and without clean water to prepare the formulas. This led to malnutrition, illness and death. As the issues surrounding the use of formula were being studied in other countries it became clear that all substitutes for breast milk, although sometimes necessary, are a substandard way to feed a child.

Around the same time that WABA was working to address the importance of breastfeeding, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) began the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative as a way to increase rates and duration of breastfeeding. This initiative eventually led to the hospital and birth center designation process. Once a hospital or birth center makes the decision to become Baby Friendly, they submit an application of intent and then make changes to become compliant with a ten-step program that is outlined by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. After completing the steps and successfully passing the site visit, the care center or hospital is awarded Baby Friendly designation.

Baby Friendly Care

In 2003, University of Utah Hospital made the decision to begin the journey to become Baby Friendly. Under the guidance of Brenda Gulliver, B.S.N., and the Baby Friendly Committee, we worked to make the changes, always keeping in mind that we were doing it for the patients. Our official application was submitted in 2004, and we spent four and a half years slowly changing practice and mindset. The journey was on occasion challenging, but there were no obstacles that we were unable to work around.  It was all worth it when we were awarded Baby Friendly Designation on December 2, 2008. As our committee sat in the room awaiting the conference call from Baby Friendly USA, we were slightly nervous but excited about all we had accomplished. As we listened to the news that we were to become the first hospital in Utah to achieve this prestigious designation we were overjoyed that all our hard work was being rewarded. It was at our designation ceremony in January when a patient spoke to the media and said, “I left the hospital feeling so good and so empowered to take care of my baby,” that we were reminded that we didn’t do it for us but for the patients.

Why did we take on this challenge? We did it because research shows that following all of the Baby Friendly Initiative’s 10 Steps increases breastfeeding success exponentially. While each step in and of itself is good, all of them working together is the real way to success. In Utah over 90 percent of women intend to breastfeed their babies, and yet somewhere in the process many women are not successful in their goal. Being a Baby Friendly Hospital increases the chances of success, which can be seen in the breastfeeding results collected by the Utah Department of Health. University of Utah continues to have high initiation and duration rates of breastfeeding, and we know that choosing to become Baby Friendly was the right decision for our hospital, our patients and our community.

baby friendly breastfeeding

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