First Hospital in NWI Certified as ‘Baby-Friendly’

First Hospital in NWI Certified as ‘Baby-Friendly’

New mom Martha Rodriguez holds her baby, Mason Rodriguez, in the Family Birthing Center at St. Mary Medical Center. Mason was the first baby born at St. Mary Medical Center in 2018, coming into the world at 4:20 a.m. on Jan. 1. St. Mary Medical Center is the first hospital in Northwest Indiana to be designated as a Baby-Friendly Hospital, as recognized by Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.

St. Mary Medical Center of Hobart has earned distinction as a Baby-Friendly Designated birth facility. The designation was recently awarded by Baby Friendly USA, Inc., following an extensive application and approval process.

St. Mary Medical Center is one of 16 Indiana hospitals to earn Baby-Friendly status and the first in Northwest Indiana to achieve the distinction. The application and review process were undertaken jointly by the hospital’s Family Birthing Center and by Innovative Women’s Health, the associated obstetrical and women’s health practice with offices in Hobart, Merrillville, Valparaiso, Portage and Winfield.

Based on the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding,” this prestigious international award recognizes birth facilities that offer best practices for mothers and babies. These practices include a focus on giving breastfeeding mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies.

Also, St. Mary Medical Center’s Family Birthing Center has been recognized as an Anthem Blue Distinction Center for Maternity Care. This designation is awarded to the insurer’s preferred providers and is based on the hospital’s demonstrated track record of delivering safe, effective quality maternity care for moms and babies.

“Our Family Birthing Center, in partnership with our Innovative Women’s Health obstetricians and certified nurse midwives, provides exceptional prenatal, labor and delivery and postnatal care for hundreds of families in our communities each year,” St. Mary Medical Center CEO Janice Ryba said. “Being designated as a Baby-Friendly Hospital and as an Anthem Blue Distinction Center is reflective of our commitment to following best practices that provide a healthy start in life for babies and supportive care and education for moms. We commend the leadership and staff of our Family Birthing Center and our caregivers in Innovative Women’s Health for these important achievements.”

Baby-Friendly USA is the U.S. authority for the implementation of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.

At St. Mary Medical Center’s Family Birthing Center in 2017, 86 percent of moms who chose to breastfeed exclusively were able to do so. Breastfeeding moms are supported by Racquel Krause, an internationally board certified lactation consultant, and staff who have received extensive training in lactation and feeding support. Exclusive breastfeeding is a practice that is linked to reduced infant mortality and better overall health for babies. Care providers with Innovative Women’s Health begin educating expectant mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding during their prenatal care.

“A lot of it is related to breastfeeding, but it’s not only breastfeeding,” said Alicia Hart, nurse manager for Labor, Delivery, Recovery, Postpartum and Pediatrics at St. Mary Medical Center. “It is promoting best practices for mom and baby. These include skin-to-skin contact after delivery, ‘rooming in,’ which is keeping mom and baby together, education and helping babies with special needs, such as those admitted to the Level II Nursery. Our goal is to support and educate moms regardless of their feeding choice.”

Currently there are 461 active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States. Now that St. Mary Medical Center has achieved Baby-Friendly status, Hart said, the facility will serve as a Baby-Friendly mentor hospital assisting other facilities in achieving the same designation.


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