How it all began for us…

I don’t know yet if this is a typical beginning. My hope is that blogtobabyfriendly will draw hospitals together, and we can share our stories. From those stories, hospitals that haven’t begun their Baby-Friendly story can be encouraged to begin.  And maybe they can even learn a thing or two to do or not to do.

Rumblings about Baby-Friendly have been coursing the hallways of Memorial Hospital for at least a decade. Here and there a lactation consultant or two broached the subject with executive leadership. The hang up here has always been paying for formula and formula company gift bags, as well as other perks accepted from formula companies. Formula company marketing techniques are the subject of an entire blog post, but let me just say here, that in an effort (an effective one) to market their products to consumers, formula companies give hospitals formula for in-patient use, nursing education and promotional gift bags.

The cost of replacing the gift bags given to patients and the cost of paying for our own formula was a barrier to seriously considering becoming Baby-Friendly, and I know this is a barrier for other hospitals as well.  However, remember that becoming Baby-Friendly is a 10-Step process, and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes  is tacked onto the end. The Code is a vital part of Baby-Friendly, but I believe it is at the end for a reason; it is the place to end the Baby-Friendly journey, not to begin it.

This is our Baby-Friendly Lesson # 1: Lead with the 10 Steps. They make sense, and once leadership gets them, The Code is a logical punctuation. The cost of formula is an important part of the conversation about whether or not to pursue Baby-Friendly, but the “sell” is in the 10 Steps.

No matter how the conversation at Memorial started or ended, I have to give plenty of credit to timing. 2011 was a busy year for Baby-Friendly, beginning with the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. She encouraged hospitals to pursue Baby-Friendly as a means to increase breastfeeding success rates. In April, the Joint Commission added exclusive breast milk feeding to their Perinatal Core Measure Set and suggested Baby-Friendly to help achieve this goal. Later, in the summer, the Center for Disease Control published in their Vital Signs a report that breastfeeding is a significant preventative measure for obesity, but that hospitals are not doing all they can to promote breastfeeding. Their solution? Become Baby-Friendly. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics added breastfeeding to their list of strategies to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

In addition to national attention surrounding Baby-Friendly, reorganization within our Women’s and Children’s service line and Baby-Friendly promotion from Indiana Perinatal Network ripened the fields of change. This is our Baby-Friendly Lesson #2: Pay attention to media, professional practice statements and the pulse of your organization because timing makes a difference. In Indiana, we are fortunate to have a clearinghouse of information from Indiana Perinatal Network and our State Breastfeeding Coordinator,Tina Cardarelli.  Anyone can subscribe to Tina’s monthly newsletter by clicking here.

Beginning with the 10 Steps and paying attention to timing were key to getting the Baby-Friendly ball rolling, but here is the rest of the story…

This summer I interviewed for a job, and before the first interview, I reflected on what I could bring to the job that would set me apart from other candidates. Baby-Friendly was first on my list. I reviewed the 10 Steps and the history of Baby-Friendly. Meanwhile, one of the interviewers, a director, was reflecting on what she could ask each candidate that would measure their understanding of the significant policies and practices in that particular unit. We didn’t speak to one another about any of this and were both a little surprised during the interview when she asked about Baby-Friendly and I had an answer already prepared.

The interview process did not yield a new job for me, but it did serve an essential purpose that I only realized in hindsight. This is Baby-Friendly Lesson #3: Someone in leadership who has influence and is willing to unabashedly use that influence to promote Baby-Friendly is a necessary force to move forward.  The director of our Childbirth Unit, Patty DeStefano, talked up Baby-Friendly with other leaders and nursing staff at every opportunity. She talked to the new Mother Baby Unit Director,Sarah Paturalski, before Sarah started her new job. Sarah, in turn, came to understand the potential of Baby-Friendly and started talking to other leaders. The fire has spread.

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About blogtobabyfriendly

blogtobabyfriendly is written by Amy Murray, a Childbirth Unit nurse with a touch of earth muffin crunch. A childbirth educator and IBCLC, she's been a breastfeeding advocate all her adult life, believing that if our bodies make milk, it just makes good sense to feed it to our babies. blogtobabyfriendly is her hospital's journey to Baby-Friendly designation. Click to get email updates on new blog posts. Our desire is to learn, share, and learn more.
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3 Responses to How it all began for us…

  1. Olivia says:

    Loving the blog and am so excited to see Memorial become baby friendly. It’s also interesting that I thought no formula samples was one of the actual steps to becoming baby friendly, but I see it’s not. Sounds like hospital staff need to realize that by becoming baby friendly the amount of formula they will need to purchase will be a lot less then the amount of formula they distribute now.

  2. Amber S says:

    I’m so excited for this here at Memorial. Im curious, why are we unable to have formula and gift bags paid for by the companies if we are “baby friendly”? Does the formula companies say if we have that distinction we lose our “privileges” for formula?

    • Amber, the formula companies want to give hospitals formula. Offering these perks is their primary marketing tool. The World Health Organization’s Code for Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes helps define a fair relationship between hospitals and formula companies. You can click on “The Code” in the most recent blog post for more details. Hospitals that follow The Code have higher breastfeeding rates. Good question!

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