February 2, 2012

Vanderbilt signs on for effort to encourage breastfeeding

Featured Image

At Tuesday’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative event, Vanderbilt’s Shari Barkin, M.D., right, talks with guest speaker Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., and Tennessee Commissioner of Health John Dreyzehner, M.D., MPH. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Vanderbilt signs on for effort to encourage breastfeeding

The short-term and long-term benefits of breastfeeding for infants are clear — reduced risks of obesity, diabetes, certain cancers and sudden infant death syndrome.

Vanderbilt University is taking steps to ensure every child has a healthy start to life, and that mothers have the resources and help they need to successfully breastfeed.

In a joint venture, Vanderbilt’s Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology have signed on for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a global program that encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care and environment for infant feeding.

Vanderbilt’s goal is to receive a designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital, which requires a four-phase plan and on-site approval. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sponsor the evidence-based international initiative.

While nearly 20,000 hospitals/birthing centers worldwide have been awarded designation, only 125 U.S. hospitals have the recognition. Two birthing centers in East Tennessee are considered Baby-Friendly.

Vanderbilt is the only hospital in the Nashville area signed on to participate, an effort that was highlighted at a Grand Rounds lecture Tuesday, and was lauded by Tennessee State Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, M.D., MPH.

“Numerous studies have demonstrated the vital health benefits of breastfeeding for infants, including lower risk of obesity, diabetes and other diseases among children who are breastfed,” said Dreyzehner, who attended the event at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

“The Tennessee Department of Health strongly supports efforts to enable mothers to achieve their goals of breastfeeding their children. This new initiative at Vanderbilt is a great example of how workplaces can help protect this important practice by establishing an environment friendly to breastfeeding.”

With a breastfeeding lectureship grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Anna Morad, M.D., co-director of the Newborn Nursery and assistant professor of Pediatrics, invited internationally known breastfeeding expert Lori Feldman-Winter, M.D., to speak Tuesday.

“We provide the highest standard of care for our newborns, and breastfeeding support is a critical piece of that care,” said Morad, who also serves as breastfeeding coordinator of the Tennessee Chapter of AAP.

“I am appreciative of the financial assistance and policy backing from Children’s Hospital and the Departments of Pediatrics and OB/GYN in support of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Breastfeeding Report Card shows Tennessee lags behind in breastfeeding rates, with 65 percent of infants having “ever breastfed,” compared to the national average of 75 percent.

To achieve success with breastfeeding, the Baby-Friendly Health Initiative calls for 10 steps, which include eliminating the use of pacifiers, training all health care staff and allowing mothers and infants to remain in the same room, among other actions.

Feldman-Winter, head of the Division of Adolescent Medicine at the Cooper University Hospital in New Jersey, said there are few reasons, medical or physical, why mothers or babies can’t breastfeed.

“We need physician-champions. You have them and they’ve been working on this,” she said. “Physicians and nurses are necessary, and everyone has to be around the table. Interdisciplinary care works.”

Vanderbilt is in the second of four phases to earn the Baby-Friendly designation, and will continue to develop the program in the coming months.