Eleven years of groundwork and four years of focused policy and practice changes were rewarded this week when University Hospital was recognized as a Baby-Friendly facility. The designation celebrates the hospital’s continued commitment to newborns, mothers and their families in Bexar County as we move forward with the creation of the new Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
The prestigious Baby-Friendly USA designation is awarded to hospitals after successful completion of four rigorous phases. The framework involves adherence to best practices in newborn care, including skin-to-skin contact after birth, bedside exams, infant feeding techniques, the benefits of breastfeeding and staff and patient education. It recognizes the importance of mother-infant bonding in those first crucial days and encourages the mother to have confidence in her skills and enjoy being with her new baby.
“It makes me proud to walk around the unit and see change in practice,” said Kate McLachlan, certified lactation consultant and Baby-Friendly lead at University Health. Babies are spending more time at their mother’s bedside where important newborn checks now take place. Families bond with their newest member by sharing experiences, such as those special photo-worthy first baths. “This makes the first few hours and days of the infant’s life less stressful all around,” McLachlan said, “because mom is within reach when newborn care is being provided.”
The Baby-Friendly designation is a result of multiple departments coming together to support evidence-based maternity care through a specific set of best practices. One of the principles of the program is to educate and support mothers who decide to breastfeed. Nurses specializing in lactation educate new moms about proper feeding techniques, such as feeding cues and the best position of the infant. These practices are helpful even when a mother chooses not to breastfeed, McLachlan said.
“It’s not all about the milk. It is about that incredibly close connection that mothers have with their babies,” she said.
“We support the mother’s choice, and share techniques and resources to help both mother and baby thrive,” said Cynthia Ledesma, executive director of patient care services in University Health Obstetrics.
Education of the family doesn’t end when baby and mom have left the hospital. Baby-friendly practices link inpatient and outpatient care for seamless continued support of mother and infant. University Health’s commitment to ongoing support helps ensure the best care for Bexar County women and babies from birth and beyond.