Memorial Hospital has been designated a Baby-Friendly Hospital, the highest accreditation for birth centers.
In 1991, the World Health Organization and UNICEF launched a joint program aimed at designating hospitals and birthing centers that offer top care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. This program, called the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, accredits hospitals that meet Baby-Friendly USA’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding criteria. It is the highest form of accreditation for birth centers and is considered a gold standard of excellence.
Memorial Hospital began the initial Discovery Phase of Baby-Friendly certification in 2009 and has been planning and implementing the recommended best practices for designation since 2011. The exclusive breastfeeding rate at Memorial Hospital was 33% when the process began in 2009. It has since jumped to 63% as of March 2016. The purchasing department has also reported a 48% reduction in formula utilization in the Labor and Delivery and Family Care units, signaling an increased emphasis on breastfeeding.
There are currently 48 states in the US that are home to Baby-Friendly designated hospitals. Memorial Hospital is the first such hospital in Kern County. Accredited Baby-Friendly hospitals are recognized worldwide for having the most superb infant bonding and breastfeeding practices in their birthing units. These hospitals support and protect breastfeeding, and promote mother/baby bonding immediately after birth and throughout the entire hospital space, regardless of delivery method.
Baby-Friendly designation gives expectant mothers peace of mind when choosing where to deliver their babies. Patients can be assured that designated hospitals carry with them the support and resources to teach and promote successful breastfeeding the moment the child is born.
Studies show a link between breastfeeding and improved health in children:
- For baby:
- Higher IQ
- Reduced trips to pediatrician
- Fewer ear infections
- Higher immunity
- Reduced risk of developing diabetes later in life
- For mother:
- Reduced risk of postpartum depression
- Reduced risk post-delivery bleeding complications
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- Reduced risk of ovarian cancer
It is also estimated that breastfeeding saves hundreds of dollars at the family level, and roughly $13 billion at the national level due to reduced hospital stays and illnesses as a result of breastfeeding.