High 5 Mom and Baby

Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph has continued its commitment to infant and maternal health by once again earning High 5 for Mom & Baby Premier recognition from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, a program developed by the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates in Kansas.

St. Joseph, the only Wichita-area hospital recognized as a Baby Friendly facility by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, first received High 5 recognition in 2015 and has maintained it each year since that time.

High 5 for Mom & Baby Premier provides resources and a framework to help Kansas hospitals implement 10 evidence-based practices proven to support successful breastfeeding, improve maternal and infant health outcomes and reduce racial and ethnic health disparities.

To obtain this recognition, each facility is asked to complete a voluntary and self-reported evaluation and:

  • Have a written maternity care and infant feeding policy that addresses all 10 High 5 for Mom & Baby practices supporting breastfeeding
  • Maintain staff competency in lactation support
  • Provide all expectant mothers with information and instruction on breastfeeding
  • Assure immediate and sustained skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth
  • Provide all families individualized infant feeding counseling
  • Give no food or drink to newborns other than breastmilk unless medically indicated
  • Allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day
  • Encourage feeding whenever the baby exhibits feeding cues, regardless of feeding methods
  • Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants
  • Provide mothers with information about community resources for breastfeeding support following their discharge from the hospital

These steps are designed to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration rates in the state of Kansas. Factors that influence how long or if a baby is breastfed include hospital practices, education and encouragement, policies or support in the workplace, and access to community support.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, six out of 10 mothers stopped breastfeeding sooner than they had planned.

"Our goal is to provide the support that mothers and babies need to be successful at breastfeeding for as long as they desire to do so," said Toni Howard, RN, a certified lactation consultant and childbirth educator, who helped lead the High 5 & Baby Premier efforts at St. Joseph. "We have a long history of being an innovator and early adopter of practices that support breastfeeding because we want every baby to get the best possible start in their first year of life.

"The support we provide is critical, particularly during a pandemic like we have been experiencing," said Howard, who worked with Deb Swift and other members of the lactation and childbirth education team to convert the NewLife Center's classes to virtual classes offered at no cost to parents through a Children's Miracle Network Hospital grant.

Throughout the pandemic, St. Joseph's Breastfeeding Clinic, which was Wichita's first, has remained open to all mothers needing support through virtual consults and, as needed, in-person visits with its team of internationally board-certified lactation consultants who also are all registered nurses. They develop a personalized plan of care for each delivering mother and baby to prevent any issues and set them up for success.

To learn more about Labor and Delivery at Ascension Via Christi, visit viachristibaby.com.