Shawnee Mission Health Pursues the Baby-Friendly Hospital Designation

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Mothers who deliver at the Shawnee Mission Birth Center will benefit from one of the country's first hospital programs dedicated to supporting breastfeeding. Shawnee Mission Health (SMH) has been selected to participate in the EMPower Initiative, a quality improvement program which helps hospitals improve maternity care practices and work toward achieving the Baby-Friendly USA designation.

Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EMPower is aimed at increasing breastfeeding rates throughout the United States by promoting and supporting optimal hospital practices, toward the ultimate goal of improving public health.

"In Kansas, nearly 85 percent of mothers choose to breastfeed their babies, but the majority of mothers are not meeting their goals," said Michelle Sanders, lactation program coordinator. "More babies are born at Shawnee Mission Health than any other hospital or birth center in the area, and we are committed to supporting our mothers and providing family-centered care."

As part of this initiative, SMH will receive ongoing support in maternity practices from experienced coaches, as well as training and resource support in lactation education. More than 270 nurses will complete 20 hours of breastfeeding education, enhancing the care patients will receive.

"No matter what feeding method is chosen, all mothers and babies in our care benefit from this program" said Sanders. "The initiative emphasizes early and uninterrupted bonding, education for nursing staff and physicians, and community resources for mothers after they go home."

The effort supports evidence-based practices known as the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Launched in 1991, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative recognizes hospitals that create an environment that supports and protects the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.

SMH has a longstanding commitment to breastfeeding, with International Board Certified Lactation Consultants on staff seven days a week. In addition to the EMPower Initiative, SMH supports mothers with a breastfeeding warm line to answer feeding questions, a free support group and an outpatient breastfeeding clinic.

SMH hopes to receive full Baby-Friendly designation in 2017.

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