Healthcare News & Insights

Keys to making your hospital more ‘baby friendly’ to new mothers & families

Here’s another way for your hospital to boost its reputation with potential patients (and satisfaction scores from current ones): Create a “baby-friendly” environment for expectant mothers, their babies and their families.

467038265Recent guidance from the feds has made baby-friendly hospitals more common. Because of the benefits of breastfeeding, the U.S. Department of Health is currently urging hospitals to adopt policies that encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies.

These policies not only boost breastfeeding rates, but they can help mothers establish stronger bonds with their babies in the days immediately after delivery.

All the benefits to breastfeeding have convinced many hospitals to get on board with this approach. A significant number of hospitals have even received a special “baby-friendly certification” from an organization called Baby-Friendly USA, which works with the World Health Organization and UNICEF to create a safer environment for babies in hospitals worldwide.

Baby-friendly approach

What exactly should a hospital do if it’s trying to become more accommodating to the needs of new mothers and their children when they’re breastfeeding? An article in the Washington Post cites examples of some baby-friendly policies, which include:

  • placing the newborn on the mother’s bare chest within an hour of birth
  • showing new mothers how to breastfeed
  • keeping babies and mothers in the same room together for the duration of the hospital stay
  • allowing mothers to nurse on demand when babies are hungry
  • having multiple lactation consultants available on site, and
  • discouraging the use of all pacifiers and artificial nipples.

Exceptions are made in cases where the baby’s health would be in danger.

The other side

While baby-friendly hospitals appeal to many mothers, there are risks in implementing these practices, the article states. Some women who choose not to breastfeed, or can’t for medical reasons, report feeling pressured into doing so – and being alienated by hospital staff if they don’t.

That’s why it’s key for hospitals that adopt this approach to have a structure in place for evaluating each patient on a case-by-case basis.

Establish clear breastfeeding policies and make staff aware of them. And let staff know that, although it’s the hospital’s policy to encourage breastfeeding for most mothers, it’s important to listen to each patient and accommodate any special requests whenever possible. Make sure staff answer patients’ questions and make them aware of all options available for their postpartum care.

It may even be helpful to have your doctors discuss these policies with expectant mothers before they give birth so they won’t be surprised after their delivery.

With this approach, you’ll be able to provide a baby-friendly environment without upsetting mothers who may have different preferences or needs. That’ll keep more patients happy – and your hospital’s patient satisfaction scores high.

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