Spring Letter 2015
If you’re a new mom and have been in a hospital lately, you’ve likely heard the buzz phrase, Baby-Friendly. This is an initiative developed by The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to ensure that all birthing centers and hospitals support new mothers as they begin to breast-feed and help them meet their breast-feeding goals. Many hospitals – including the one where I work – are on the pathway to achieving Baby-Friendly status. Some already have.
At work, we already promote many Baby-Friendly practices such as skin-to-skin contact, rooming-in and using pacifiers only for medical procedures. We no longer hand out diaper bags with free formula, and we no longer take babies to the nursery for weighing, measurements or baths. Almost all exams and newborn tests are conducted in the mother’s room and, when possible, we encourage mothers to hold their babies during procedures. These practices benefit babies and mothers, and research shows they help improve newborn bonding and breast-feeding success.
Despite all of this, at our staff meeting this week, we talked about how mothers who choose not to breast-feed might feel about all of the Baby-Friendly chatter. Some of the nurses talked about feeling guilty when they delivered their babies and chose to bottle-feed. One nurse revealed she delivered at a hospital where no one knew her so she didn’t have to explain her decision to colleagues. I talked about how difficult breast-feeding was for me. The sole lactation consultant where I delivered only worked daytime hours – no one could help me in the evenings or the middle of the night.
It was 12 years ago when I delivered my son. Since that time, there have been many advances to help increase the likelihood of successful breast-feeding. One of the most basic steps is holding baby skin to skin within the first hour of life – the so-called Golden Hour. This is one of several Baby-Friendly practices that not only promotes breast-feeding but also bonding as well. That’s why we put all babies, breast- or bottle-fed, on the mother’s chest as soon as possible. Babies love it and so do moms. Our hospital also allows new moms to return on an outpatient basis for free lactation consults, and we offer a breast-feeding support group. (Just a safety note on skin-to-skin. When you hold your baby on your chest whether in the hospital or at home, always make sure his head is turned completely to one side so nose and mouth are exposed and baby can breathe. If you feel sleepy, place your baby on his back in a crib and never sleep with baby on your chest.)
So, if you are about to deliver at a hospital or birthing center, you will likely see a poster or hear something about Baby-Friendly. Keep in mind that while the program will help if you choose to breast-feed, the staff will support you just as much if you do not. Importantly, our role as nurses is to support new mothers in any way and to provide them with the most up-to-date and accurate information possible – without judgment about personal choices.
Linda Ciampa, RN