South Shore University Hospital receives Baby-Friendly designation

Oh, baby!

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South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore recently received the prestigious Baby-Friendly designation from Baby Friendly USA.

The Baby-Friendly Initiative was launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to “improve breastfeeding outcomes around the world.” The process to become designated Baby-Friendly is rigorous and takes at minimum four years. 

Wendi Andria, clinical program manager, coordinated and led the Baby-Friendly designation and is proud of the changes the hospital made to receive the designation.

“It requires a complete transformation of the entire department,” Andria said.

The process to become designated Baby-Friendly at SSUH began back in 2017, but was stalled due to COVID. Some of the changes the hospital implemented included improving access to prenatal education (in both Spanish and English), skin-to-skin contact for babies and mothers immediately after birth, stopping the practice of separating newborns and families after birth to conduct exams and instead performing the exams in the same room, and having lactation specialists assist new mothers who choose to breastfeed.

Andria also said that nurses and doctors received extensive training to better assist new mothers. All nurses had to go through 25 hours of training and over 90 percent became certified breastfeeding counselors. All physicians had to go through a mandatory three-hour training.

Baby Friendly USA focuses primarily on breastfeeding, but for mothers who cannot or decide against breastfeeding, SSUH provides them with education on how to properly bottle-feed, how to properly clean bottles and what kind of formula to use. Andria said that overall, mothers were getting more education in order to make more informed decisions.

Jessica Moy, a recent patient at SSUH, gave birth to her first child, Theodora, on May 30. Moy said the education she received from the staff at SSUH was essential in helping her learn how to breastfeed and stick with it.

“We wanted to try breastfeeding, but I didn’t feel very strongly one way or another,” Moy said. “I kind of felt like, ‘Alright, I’ll try it and if it doesn’t work out, we can always use formula.’”

Moy said within the first 24 hours after giving birth, a lactation consultant talked her through breastfeeding and how to get a good latch.

“A lot of people don’t realize it’s not as simple as, ‘Alright, you take the baby, hold her up there and they know what to do,’” Moy said. “You’re both kind of learning what to do.”

Moy said if it wasn’t for the help of the staff, she probably would have given up on breastfeeding her daughter. She said she researched so much before giving birth, such as what to pack in a hospital bag and how to change diapers, but never looked up how to breastfeed.

“It was almost the last thing on my mind, but now, after the education I received, I’m really like, ‘Oh man, that really should have been the first thing on my mind,’” Moy said.

Andria said SSUH receiving the Baby-Friendly designation makes mothers feel secure in their decision to give birth there.

“To me, being a Baby-Friendly hospital demonstrates that the hospital is really committed to holding a very high standard of care,” Andria said. “You know if you walk into a Baby-Friendly hospital, there’s much more training, support and education. Educated consumers seek these hospitals out when they’re trying to pick the hospital they’re going to deliver their baby in.”

About Baby-Friendly USA

In order to become certified Baby-Friendly, hospitals must adhere to the “10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding,” which includes “ensuring staff have sufficient knowledge, competence, and skills to support breastfeeding” and “supporting mothers to recognize and respond to their infants cues for feeding.”

The process to become designated Baby-Friendly takes approximately four years, with each year  representing a different step in the process. The four steps are discovery, development, dissemination and designation. Once facilities earn the designation, they are required to complete an annual Quality Improvement Project. After five years, the designation expires and facilities enter the re-designation process. There are currently 590 Baby-Friendly facilities in the U.S.

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