Providence Health System, the longest continually serving hospital in Washington, D.C. – and a part of Ascension, the nation's largest Catholic and non-profit health system – announced today its designation as a Baby-Friendly® hospital. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund to encourage and recognize hospitals and birth centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding. Currently there are only 332 active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States and more than 20,000 worldwide. This designation verifies that a birthing facility has implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. Providence is one of only two Baby-Friendly hospitals in the District and the only community-based hospital to be awarded this distinction.
"Providence began this journey to Baby-Friendly designation in 2012, and we have made amazing progress since supporting breastfeeding as the standard of care for newborn infants and mothers," said Duane Erwin, interim CEO and president of Providence. "We look forward to being at the forefront as other area hospitals promote breastfeeding and seek their own Baby-Friendly designation."
With the support of the Center for Perinatal Advocacy, the Providence team implemented a series of measures to earn this distinction, and underwent a rigorous on-site Baby-Friendly evaluation last April to measure the success of its initiatives. These enhancements to patient care included counseling for all mothers about breastfeeding, assisting other hospitals to encourage breastfeeding, expansion of its lactation program, increased breastfeeding resources, and training for all staff nurses on breastfeeding assistance and support.
"Because breastfeeding is the best care, this designation supports perfectly Providence's mission of providing excellent and compassionate clinical care to all, regardless of ability to pay," says Gabriela Garcia, Director of the Center for Perinatal Advocacy and one of the leaders of the Baby-Friendly certification process. "Exclusively breastfed infants have a reduced risk of lower respiratory tract infections, pneumonia, serious colds, ear and throat infections, and sudden infant death syndrome."