Vidant Beaufort working toward ‘Baby Friendly’ designation

Published 12:24 am Saturday, August 25, 2018

August is World Breastfeeding month and what better way for our local hospital, Vidant Beaufort, to kick off the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative?

Vidant Beaufort has begun the steps to ensure that babies born at Vidant Beaufort and their mothers have the best possible start together. The Vidant Health system is committed to becoming a Baby Friendly system. Vidant Beaufort has partnered with Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute to participate in two research partnerships, ENRICH and EMPOWER. Both ENRICH and EMPOWER will guide and give our team at Vidant Beaufort the tools necessary to become a Baby Friendly Hospital.

What does this mean for the mothers, babies and families in Beaufort County? The hospital will offer scientifically based optimal care for mothers and their babies. The hospital will be educating the staff, the patients, the community, the providers and our leadership teams on the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Baby Friendly is an internationally recognized designation launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF in 1991. The initiative is a global effort for improving the role of maternity services to enable mothers to breastfeed babies for the best start in life. It aims at improving the care of pregnant women, mothers and newborns at health facilities that provide maternity services for promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding in accordance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and many national government health agencies recommend that babies are breastfed exclusively for their first six months of life. Studies have shown that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from serious illnesses including gastroenteritis, asthma, eczema and respiratory and ear infections. Adults that were breastfed as babies may be less likely to develop risk factors for heart disease such as obesity and high blood pressure. There are benefits for mothers, too: women who don’t breastfeed have increased risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures in later life.

The Baby Friendly Hospital initiative aims to increase the numbers of babies who are exclusively breastfed worldwide. Baby Friendly has 10 steps that hospitals are required to meet which include the following:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  • Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice “rooming in,” which allows mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no pacifier or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

We now know that breastfeeding is not only the best way to feed a baby but is also the natural way. A decision to breastfeed is a personal decision, and no mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed. Baby Friendly is about helping moms make informed choices about infant feeding and then to support them after their decision.

Because Vidant Beaufort and the Vidant Health system is working to become a Baby Friendly Hospital and system, we will be well on our way to improving the outcomes for mothers and babies across our 29-county region.

In 2011, the CDC report card showed 67.3 percent of new infants in North Carolina were never breastfed, dropping to 37 percent by 6 months. In 2018, the CDC report card data reported that in North Carolina babies that were ever breastfed was 84.9 percent; babies that were breastfed for six months was reported at 58.8 percent; and 33.2 percent at 12 months. There are currently 530 U.S. hospitals that are designated Baby Friendly and there were a total of 37.6 percent of live births that occurred at a Baby Friendly Hospital in 2018.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend infants should be exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age with continued breastfeeding with complementary foods until at least 1 year and thereafter, as long as mutually desirable for mom and baby.

Vidant Beaufort has celebrated breastfeeding through our recent Big Latch event that was held Aug. 4, at the hospital. This event totaled 21,763 participating moms across the globe. Vidant Beaufort will continue to celebrate this month with two upcoming awards next week as we continue to work towards becoming a Baby Friendly Hospital and community.

Elaine Clark is the manager of Women’s Services at Vidant Beaufort Hospital. If you would like any additional information about breastfeeding or women’s services, you can contact Elaine at 252-975-4209 or at