One of St. Joseph Health’s hospitals, St. Mary Medical Center, became part of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organization (WHO) Baby-Friendly USA Hospital Initiative for the services it provides mothers and babies for the High Desert community. With this designation, St. Mary Medical Center is now one of 70 Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and the UNICEF to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for lactation. The Initiative assists hospitals in giving breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.
St. Mary had to meet numerous requirements to be named a Baby Friendly hospital, which includes providing all nurses in baby related units with lactation training to ensure they can immediately be available to provide answers and support to new mothers regarding breastfeeding.
St. Mary also incorporated rooming-in into its program, which allows newborns and mothers to be together for 24 hours a day immediately following the birth. Complimentary follow-up visits for all new mothers and babies are also available after discharge to evaluate the new mom’s and baby’s adjustment and general health.
“This a great honor for St. Mary Medical Center and our clinicians who have worked hard to ensure the needs of mothers and children are considered as an overall way to approach a healthy
baby,” states Deborah Proctor, President & CEO of St. Joseph Health. “As a health system that strives to build the healthiest communities, we understand the value of focusing on even the youngest of our patients and we will continue to build system-wide programs to help us accomplish our mission.”
With the new designation, St. Mary joins UNICEF and the WHO in educating mothers and the community on the benefits of breastfeeding. Research has proven that breastfeeding can reduce ear infections by 80 percent in children. It also reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, obesity, cancers and diabetes in children. Studies also have shown that breastfeeding decreases the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers, anemia and osteoporosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Established in 1956, St. Mary Medical Center is a 186-bed acute care facility celebrating more than 50 years of healing in the High Desert. St. Mary is home to the High Desert’s only comprehensive cardiovascular surgery program. The Medical Center is fully accredited by The Joint Commission.