Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is among a select group of 90 hospitals nationwide that have been asked to participate in Best Fed Beginnings, a first-of-its-kind initiative to significantly improve breastfeeding rates in states where they are the lowest. The National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading this program with the help of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Baby-Friendly USA, Inc., the national authority for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
Although breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers, half of U.S.-born babies are given formula within the first week, and by 9 months, only 31 percent of babies are breastfeeding at all. Breastfeeding rates are lowest among poor socio-economic populations. This program is intended to reverse these trends and to increase the number of U.S. hospitals with a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother's choice to breastfeed.
This model includes the use of several steps to successfully help mothers breastfeed including: educating pregnant women on the benefits of breastfeeding; helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth; showing mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants; and eliminating the use of pacifiers for breastfeeding infants.
"We were honored to be selected for a program that has the potential to transform breastfeeding trends in this country," said Ronald Potkul, MD, chair, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, LUHS, and Mary Isabelle Caestecker, professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. "We look forward to working with this consortium to increase the number of U.S. hospitals that support a mother's choice to breastfeed."
The 90 hospitals, which were selected from 235 applicants, are responsible for more than 275,000 births each year in the 29 states with the lowest breastfeeding rates and highest rates of supplementation during the hospital stay. These hospitals will work together in a 22-month-long learning collaborative, using proven quality-improvement methods to transform their maternity care services in pursuit of a "Baby-Friendly" designation. This designation verifies that a hospital has comprehensively implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as established in the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
Breastfeeding rates are higher and disparities in these rates are virtually eliminated in hospitals that achieve this status. Since there are currently only 143 hospitals and birth centers in the U.S. designated as "Baby-Friendly," accounting for approximately 240,000 of our country's births each year, Best Fed Beginnings will more than double the number of babies born in U.S. hospitals that fully support breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding has several health benefits for both infants and mothers. For infants, it decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality and optimally supports neurodevelopment. It also decreases infants' risk of becoming obese later in childhood. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Loyola University Health System