STOCKBRIDGE — Piedmont Henry Hospital is one of seven Georgia hospitals participating in Best Fed Beginnings, a national effort to encourage breastfeeding as a preventive health measure.
“We are delighted to have been chosen to participate in this important effort and to have the opportunity to improve our maternity care services to better support breastfeeding,” said Pat McAfee, director of women and infant services at Piedmont Henry Hospital. “We recognize that for women who plan to breastfeed, the hospital experience strongly influences a mother’s ability to start and continue breastfeeding.”
Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers, health officials said in a press statement. 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, officials maintain.
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 nine months, only 31 percent of babies are breastfeeding at all.
Best Fed Beginnings seeks to reverse these trends by increasing the number of hospitals implementing a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother’s choice to breastfeed. The National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort through a cooperative funding agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will be working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.
Piedmont Henry Hospital is one of 90 hospitals selected from the 235 applicants to participate in this initiative. The hospitals will work together during a 22-month learning collaborative, using proven quality improvement methods to transform their maternity care services in pursuit of “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.
“We look forward to working with Piedmont Henry Hospital and congratulate them on their successful application,” said Charlie Homer, president and chief executive officer of NICHQ. “The large number of applications we received affirms the commitment of hospitals across our country to be part of a health care system that truly focuses on promoting health for women and infants. We are especially pleased that we received so many applications from hospitals in states where there are so few facilities with Baby-Friendly designation and from hospitals that serve populations of women who now are much less likely to breastfeed.”