URBANA — New moms giving birth at Presence Covenant Medical Center, Urbana, are going to have more help getting the best start on breast-feeding, hospital officials say.
A $11,000 grant through the American Academy of Pediatrics Illinois Chapter will help Covenant on its path to becoming a "Baby-Friendly USA" hospital.
The Baby-Friendly USA designation was started by World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund to encourage hospitals to offer the best level of education and care for infant feeding and bonding between moms and their newborns.
Covenant already has an 80 percent breast-feeding rate among new moms delivering at its Blessed Beginnings birthing center, according to the center's director, Patty Brown.
The grant will allow the hospital to expand its services and make sure the entire staff is trained in breast-feeding techniques, she said.
There are 168 U.S. hospitals with the Baby-Friendly designation, with four in Illinois including Pekin Hospital, Pekin, St. John's Hospital, Springfield, St. Mary's Hospital, Decatur, and Little Company of Mary Hospital, Evergreen Park.
Pediatricians recommend exclusive breast-feeding early in life for best health outcomes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast-feeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breast-feeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continued breast-feeding for one year or longer when it's mutually desired by mother and infant.
The money through the pediatrics association originated with Illinois Department of Public Health "We Choose Health" funding, which encourages hospitals to work with public health districts on community outreach and involvement for new moms. Covenant is working on training and education with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, says Cristy Witting, a Covenant international board certified lactation consultant guiding the Baby-Friendly USA effort at the hospital.
Brandon Meline, director of Maternal and Child Health for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said an important part of encouraging breast-feeding starts with hospital policies on things such as whether moms are sent home with a formula sample pack.
Baby-friendly designated hospitals must provide support to new and expectant moms before delivery, while they're at the hospital and after discharge and follow 10 steps dictating their breast-feeding policies and training.
What about moms who want to bottle-feed? Wittig said the hospital will still support bottle-feeding moms who choose to go that route, and formula will still be available for them.
"The utmost part of this is it's the mom's choice," she said.
Witting said Covenant is on track to receive the Baby-Friendly USA designation by the end of 2014 or early 2014.
Covenant has also started a Facebook support group for breast-feeding moms to give them more support once they get home with their babies. It is led by Covenant lactation consultants and has 100 members, and anyone is free to join.
"It keeps them to date and allows them a direct connection to continue talking to us," Wittig said.