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The Best Way to Tell If Your Hospital Supports Breastfeeding

A state program you need to know about

Published on: August 16, 2017

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Mom breastfeeding baby

Breastfeeding has come a long way. These days, 81 percent of moms breastfeed their babies at birth. That’s up from 74 percent in 2004 and leagues ahead of the 25 percent of moms who breast-fed in 1971 (the lowest rate on record).

Still, only about half of moms are still breastfeeding their babies at 6 months old (the minimum recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics). If you’ve breastfed, you understand why. Chapped nipples, relying on a pump, and trying to balance work with breastfeeding pumping machines — it's not always practical. Cue the Breastfeeding Friendly Washington Hospitals program.

This month marks the two-year anniversary of the voluntary program, which is a joint effort between the Washington State Hospital Association and the state Department of Health (DOH). In the years since, the program has recognized more than 40 different hospitals throughout the state with three different levels of recognition: gold, silver and bronze. 

Breastfeeding Friendly Washington has recognized more than 40 different hospitals throughout the state since August 2015.

On the list: CHI Franciscan St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, which recently earned a gold-level award. The designation is partially thanks to the medical center’s education efforts — nurses receive 15 hours of breastfeeding education and must complete five hours of hands-on learning, says Jakki Stodola, director of the Family Birth Center at St. Joseph.

“This is one of those rare times when the evidence and public demand are working hand in hand to improve outcomes for our smallest citizens,” says Stodola. “Washington hospitals are making these changes, in part, because the families wanted to see improvements in their experience.” Combine that with state-backed support and, Stodola says, you have a winning combination. 

Breastfeeding Friendly was born out of Baby-Friendly USA, an international program developed by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It’s been around since 1991 and requires that all recognized hospitals stick to 10 steps to successful breastfeeding.

So, how do you tell if your hospital is Breastfeeding Friendly? Check this list from the DOH; it’s broken out by gold (current count: 25 hospitals), silver (0) and bronze (19). It also includes birth centers, clinics and hospitals in counties ranging from Whatcom to King, Okanogan to Pierce. The result: More mamas getting the support they need to breastfeed.

“Every major health authority in the world recognizes the value of breastfeeding as a public health priority,” says Stodola. “Those of us caring for families as they start breastfeeding carry a unique responsibility to provide the highest quality of care available.”

We’ll toast to that — with breastmilk, of course!

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