Published on January 29, 2016

Mary Greeley is Largest Iowa Hospital to Earn Baby-Friendly Recognition

AMES, IA – Mary Greeley Medical Center has been designated as a Baby-Friendly hospital by Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.

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

Mary Greeley is the second and largest hospital in Iowa to earn this prestigious designation.

“The Baby-Friendly process is focused on providing mothers the information, confidence, and skills they need to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies,” says Amy Dagestad, MSN, RNC-OB, director of Mary Greeley’s Birthways unit. “What we emphasize here is the benefits of breast milk feeding, whether that is through breastfeeding or bottle feeding of breast milk. We always support the mother’s choice when it comes to the manner in which they want to provide nourishment to their newborn.”

Research shows breast milk feeding reduces a baby’s risk of obesity, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, ear infections, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections, and diabetes types 1 and 2. Nursing moms are at lower risk for breast cancer, ovarian and cervical cancer, and type 2 diabetes. A new study published this week in The Lancet, a leading medical journal, indicates that breastfeeding could save more than 800,000 lives worldwide and reduce the rate of breast cancer deaths.

“Breastfeeding is about the best thing a mom can do for her newborn,” says Dr. John Paschen, a McFarland Clinic pediatrician and early advocate of Baby-Friendly. “It is not always easy and seeing Mary Greeley put resources into making it as easy as possible is exceptional. It’s one reason why it is such a pleasure to practice medicine here.”

The Baby-Friendly process, which is endorsed by major health organizations and backed by extensive research, requires hospitals to complete Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, most of which involve educating and assisting mothers of newborns on the initiation and duration of breastfeeding. The steps also encourage that mothers and infants “room-in,” which means they remain together 24 hours a day during their hospital stay. They also discourage the use of formula, unless medically necessary, and pacifiers until breastfeeding is established.

Mary Greeley has had a lactation program in place for several years. As part of Baby-Friendly, the hospital provides a free follow up visit with lactation services for all breastfeeding moms and infants.

“Many hospitals stall in the Baby-Friendly process because they are not able to offer that free follow up visit,” says Paschen. “It’s amazing too that a Mary Greeley lactation specialist is able to provide this service to a family free-of-charge. This alone is a big reason why mothers should choose to deliver here.”

Earning Baby-Friendly recognition is a rigorous, multi-year process. Mary Greeley began in the process in 2012. The process involved hospital administration, Birthways staff, obstetricians, midwives and pediatricians. It also involved creating a hospital breastfeeding policy and designing staff training curriculums, prenatal/ postpartum teaching plans and a data collection strategy.

“An enormous amount of work went into achieving this recognition and it was all done for one simple reason: to provide our moms and babies the best care possible,” says Brian Dieter, president and CEO of Mary Greeley. “The designation says so much about the commitment of the nurses and physicians who provide care on our Birthways unit.”

Currently there are only 321 active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States. Worldwide, there are more than 20,000 designated Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers.

Obstetricians and midwives with McFarland Clinic and Doran Clinic deliver approximately 1,100 babies each year at Mary Greeley’s Birthways unit. The unit offers 22 private patient rooms, including 13 labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum rooms.

In support of the Baby-Friendly program, Mary Greeley recently began a donor breast milk program. Donor milk, obtained from the Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, is available in Birthways for babies that might need it. A mother’s own milk is used whenever possible to feed her baby, but in certain situations, the baby needs a supplement. These situations could include a baby with a low blood sugar, a premature baby, a baby who is being adopted, a multiple birth, or a very sick mother who is not able to provide her own milk right away. 

Milk is donated to the milk bank only by very carefully screened volunteer donors. Donor milk is only used with the permission of parents.

The Baby-Friendly initiative and the donor milk program were supported by funds from the Mary Greeley Medical Center Foundation.

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