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For Release:February 22, 2013 - Pamela Williams, Office of Communications - 405/271-5601

Oklahoma Hospitals Work to Be Designated Baby-Friendly

More than 38,000 Oklahoma infants start out breastfeeding each year in the hospital, but within eight weeks almost 27,000 have stopped, according to data from the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH). To reverse this trend and improve infant health, Oklahoma hospitals are taking on the challenge of becoming designated as “baby-friendly” hospitals. This is a World Health Organization designation which ensures promotion and support of breastfeeding in the hospital and beyond. Only seven percent of U.S. babies are born in baby-friendly hospitals, and currently no Oklahoma babies have this opportunity.

Hospitals that are designated as baby-friendly have demonstrated best practice in the care of mothers and newborns and improved breastfeeding rates.In addition, baby-friendly hospitals support mother-baby bonding by keeping mothers and babies together, putting babies in skin-to-skin contact right after birth, educating all families on best infant feeding practices, and educating hospital staff on procedures to better support new families.

“We are excited about this project, which is supported by the OSDH and partner agencies including the Oklahoma Hospital Association, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the University of Oklahoma (OU) Health Sciences Center, and the OU Office of Perinatal Quality Improvement,” said Becky Mannel, baby-friendly project lead. Mannel is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and clinical instructor, and has been leading OU Medical Center hospitals on their journey to reach the baby-friendly status.“Oklahoma has an opportunity to be in the forefront of our region, promoting the best care for babies and families as we provide support for birthing hospitals in achieving the baby-friendly designation.”

On March 1, 2013, a statewide Baby-Friendly Summit will be held on the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus in Oklahoma City to educate hospital leaders about becoming baby-friendly.Already nine hospitals are pursuing “baby-friendly” designation including the following:

  • Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, Ada                                
  • Claremore Indian Hospital, Claremore          
  • Comanche County Memorial Hospital, Lawton                                 
  • Hillcrest Medical Center, Tulsa                                              
  • INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center, Oklahoma City               
  • INTEGRIS Health Edmond, Edmond                                     
  • The Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center, Oklahoma City                                
  • OU Medical Center, Edmond                                                 
  • St. Anthony Hospital, Oklahoma City

“Oklahoma’s hospitals continue to demonstrate their commitment to improved health outcomes by striving for the ‘baby-friendly’ designation.  These efforts will undoubtedly lead to improved health for mothers and their babies and will help to reduce infant mortality in our state,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline.

“Our intent is to enroll 10 birthing hospitals every year in Oklahoma until all are participating. Breastfeeding success should not have to depend on where a baby was born,” Mannel said. “We appreciate those hospitals that have taken the lead by participating in the first group working to become designated as baby-friendly.”

Hospitals will be recruited each year with the long-term goal of having every Oklahoman born in a baby-friendly birthing hospital. As part ofthe “Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility” initiative to reduce infant mortality, the OSDH Maternal and Child Health Service is providing state funded training and stipends for birthing hospitals for levels of accomplishment, until the end goal of becoming designated as a baby-friendly hospital is achieved.

Low breastfeeding rates contribute to Oklahoma’s high rates of obesity, diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infants, and to increased risks of breast cancer and heart disease in women. In addition, breastfeeding can save families thousands of dollars in costs of baby formula and medical care by decreasing the number of doctor visits, infections, hospitalizations, and missed days from work, while improving the babies’ immune systems so they can better fight against acute and chronic diseases.

For more information about the baby-friendly project or future training opportunities, contact Becky Mannel, project lead, at rebecca-mannel@ouhsc.edu. For more information about breastfeeding and having healthy babies, visit Oklahoma’s Preparing for a Lifetime, It’s Everyone’s Responsibility initiative at http://iio.health.ok.gov.


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