From left, Debra Knight, lactation consultant, Dr. Bill Sewell, medical director of women’s and children’s services and Tracy Morgan, vice president of women’s and children’s services at Phoebe, hold a plaque given to them earlier this month by state officials symbolizing the hospital’s commitment to become a baby-friendly facility. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and Georgia SHAPE recognized Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital at the June meeting of the DPH Board of Directors for its efforts in creating a breastfeeding-friendly environment.
Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, commissioner of DPH, and Dr. Kathryn Cheek, the board chair, presented Phoebe with a plaque and a commendation for its progress towards achieving a breastfeeding-friendly environment. The hospital, along with six other birthing hospitals across the state, is participating in the 5-STAR Hospital Recognition Program where hospitals commit to implementing guidelines for successful initiation of breastfeeding among new mothers.
The program was initiated with a $7,000 grant Phoebe received in 2012. Guidelines are organized into 10 steps, and for every two steps completed, hospitals receive a star in recognition of their achievements. While work has been done on all 10 steps, officials at Phoebe say they are expected to immediately receive at least two of the five stars with the goal of gaining all five needed to be considered “baby-friendly” within a year.
Throughout the program, hospitals receive extensive training and participate in monthly webinars and data collection.
Officials say hospitals engage in activities such as establishing policies in which all staff are trained, helping new mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, providing lactation consultations, allowing mothers and infants to stay together in the same room during the course of the mother’s admission, promoting skin-to-skin contact and educating the public as well as family members.
Educating families on the importance of “rooming in” and skin-to-skin immediately after birth has been among the biggest tasks the staff at Phoebe has undertaken.
“The mother baby unit is one that should not be broken up unless it is requested or if there is a medical reason for it,” said Tracy Morgan, vice president of women’s and children’s services at Phoebe.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its Healthy People 2020 report, established national goals to increase the rate of hospital initiation of breastfeeding to 81.9 percent by 2020. As of 2010 data, Georgia, at 68.2 percent, lagged behind the national average of 76.5 percent, officials say.
“Georgia SHAPE is an initiative to fight obesity,” said Dr. Bill Sewell, medical director of women’s and children’s services at Phoebe. “An increase in breastfeeding rates will translate into better health.”
For newborns, breast milk provides the appropriate nutrients and antibodies their growing bodies need for development and to fight off disease. Breastfed babies are at a lower risk for developing asthma, diabetes and ear infections. For mothers, breastfeeding can lower their risk of developing ovarian and breast cancers, Type II diabetes and post-partum depression. Many studies indicate that women who breastfeed may be able to more quickly shed their pregnancy weight than women who feed their babies formula.
Efforts to increase breastfeeding rates have received the support of groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
“We have made tremendous progress,” said Debra Knight, a lactation consultant at Phoebe.”The mindset has changed, pacifiers have disappeared, and as nurses see how the new work flow works, they get excited. It’s exciting to see … and it’s been exciting to watch.
” … We are cautiously optimistic (we will get five stars within a year).”