Now, St. Joseph has earned 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. And once again, it is the only Wichita-area hospital recognized as a Baby-Friendly facility by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
"The pandemic has created challenges in every area of hospital care, which makes these back-to-back quality recognitions even more remarkable," says Jayme McEntire, the hospital's director of Women's and Infant Services. "I am so proud of our entire NewLife Center team and their continued commitment to providing the best possible outcomes and patient experience."
St. Joseph 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 recognition, each facility must:
- 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 breast milk 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.
To achieve recognition by U.S. News & World Report, St. Joseph had to excel on multiple quality metrics, including low rates of scheduled early deliveries, C-sections in low-risk women, and unexpected newborn complications and high rates of women having the option of a vaginal birth after a Cesarean and exclusive breast milk feeding.
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," said Howard, who worked with 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 Hospitals at Ascension Via Christi 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.