Citrus Memorial Hospital was recently recognized by the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition (FBC), a statewide coalition in partnership with several Florida agencies and registered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) by participating in FBC's Baby Steps to Baby Friendly Hospital Florida Quest For Quality Maternity Care Award project. The hospital is one of the first hospitals on Florida's Nature Coast to prioritize mothers and babies by creating action plans that will improve the quality and support for mothers and babies giving birth in their hospital and answers one of the actions in the U.S. Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. As well the Florida Department of Health supports this initiative, "The Florida Department of Health fully supports breastfeeding as a vital health activity," said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. "We commend all hospitals and health care facilities that are working toward practicing the WHO/UNICEF Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and encourage others to adopt these practices so that all mothers and newborns achieve the best health possible."
According to Michelle Cox, Director of the Women and Baby Center at Citrus Memorial Hospital, "No hospital mission is more important than providing a healthy start for newborns. We rely upon rigorous application of a constant-improvement model to integrate the latest academic findings, global best practices and our own internal lessons learned. Our embrace of evidence-based maternity care through UNICEF's Ten Steps is an example of that commitment."
This project targets using hospital policy as a strategy to reduce obesity and other chronic diseases by improving optimal infant feeding practices through implementing evidence based maternity care. According to the CDC, for women who intend to breastfeed, the hospital experience is critical, and to give infants the best start in achieving a healthy life, including reduced obesity, mothers must be supported immediately after birth to establish breastfeeding. The impetus for this project is the fact that more mothers in Florida are choosing to breastfeed their newborns but few have breastfed long enough to gain the maximum benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and infants. According to the CDC National Immunization Survey (2009 birth cohort) 77% of mothers in Florida choose to breastfeed their babies but less than 13% continue to breastfeed exclusively to the recommended 6 months. Studies published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) indicate that hospitals practicing evidence based maternity care, as outlined by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Ten Steps have more patients breastfeeding in the hospital with longer durations outside of the hospital.
"The Florida Breastfeeding Coalition is proud to recognize Citrus Memorial Hospital and award them for their leadership in creating a comprehensive action plan that will improve infant feeding practices to families in Citrus County," stated Joan Younger Meek, MD, a co-founder of the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, Inc.
Improvements as mapped out in the action plan will include:
- Skin to skin contact within the first hour after birth; evidence shows healthy babies placed skin to skin just after birth have improved health outcomes over those who have been separated from their mothers after birth.
- Rooming-in for all families has been proven to increase bonding and parenting skills necessary for caring for baby post discharge.
- Provision of prenatal and post-partum education focusing on AAP recommended feeding practices of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and continuing for a least one year or as long as mutually desired.