Valley View earns Baby-Friendly designation
Post Independent Contributor
The Family Birthplace at Valley View Hospital recently earned Baby-Friendly designation after a four-year certification process.
The designation, granted by national organization Baby-Friendly USA, indicates that the Family Birthplace has successfully met criteria for specific initiatives involving prenatal and postpartum education, breastfeeding support and skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby in the critical hours after birth.
“Baby-Friendly USA was formed after UNICEF and the World Health Organization started a worldwide movement encouraging breastfeeding in 1991,” said Family Birthplace lactation coordinator Kim Martin. “Our team here at the hospital has worked very hard to achieve this important designation.”
VVH is now one of nine Baby- Friendly hospitals in Colorado, one of 370 in the United States and one of more than 21,000 worldwide. Each facility must complete the standard four-year certification process, which includes staff trainings, intensive auditing and full adoption of the program’s initiatives.
So what exactly is a Baby-Friendly hospital?
“A Baby-Friendly hospital is one that is fully supportive of breastfeeding mothers — we provide information before she ever gives birth, we help guide her immediately after her baby is born, and then we continue to offer support after the baby goes home,” Martin said. “If a mother chooses not to breastfeed, we support her as well, but we always strongly recommend breastfeeding for its numerous benefits. Plus, we encourage immediate skin-to-skin contact after the baby is born by keeping them in the postpartum rooms with their parents.”
VVH administrative director of women’s services Laurale Cross noted that these specific practices are not necessarily the norm in all U.S. birthing centers.
“Remember those scenes in the movies where people line up behind a big window to look at all the newborns crying in a nursery?” she asked. “We don’t have that here. The first hour or two after birth is crucial for a baby to have skin-to-skin contact with Mom or Dad, so we keep them all together as much as possible. It’s so important.”
Cross, who has worked with thousands of mothers and babies since she began her career in the 1970s, remembers the days when hospital childbirth was handled much differently.
“Things have really changed for the better in the past 40 years, and Valley View is such a wonderful place to have a baby today,” she said. “In the old days babies were whisked away from their moms for long periods of time, given formula that the mother might not have approved, kept separated and not allowed to be breastfed on demand. We’ve come a long way in the field as a whole, and our communities are now better for it.”
Family Birthplace director Mic Zywiec agreed, noting that “Baby-Friendly practices are research-based, and we consistently see healthier moms and babies with these in place.”
Studies have shown that breastfeeding leads to fewer ear and lung infections, less diarrhea, fewer allergies and even a lessened risk of childhood cancer, among other benefits. New moms who choose breastfeeding see strengthened bones, reduced blood pressure and risk of other serious conditions, plus quicker weight loss after pregnancy.
In addition to all of its Baby-Friendly initiatives, the Family Birthplace strives to provide other high-quality care services to benefit patients as well. The hospital now offers nitrous oxide as a pain-management alternative for laboring mothers who may not wish to receive a more invasive anesthetic. The team also hosts a weekly group called Chat Time, where new mothers can gather for advice, support and friendship.
“And Kim [Martin] even brings in her own baked goods to those meetings,” Zywiec confided. “It’s just another example of how much she cares — and how much all of us care, truly — about seeing our young families thrive and feel empowered to succeed.”
Cross echoed Zywiec’s sentiments.
“Empowerment is such an essential component of our work here,” she added. “The more we can educate new parents, the more they will feel informed to make good choices for their babies.”
The Family Birthplace team was proud to report that of the 60-70 babies born at VVH every month, more than 95 percent now leave the hospital with moms who have chosen to breastfeed.
“Becoming Baby-Friendly is a big commitment for a hospital,” Cross said. “It’s probably easier not to seek this designation. But it’s the right thing to do, and now we know that so many newborns in our community will have a better, healthier start to life because of it.”
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