By Rebekah Martin
EAMC can add another accolade to its list of achievements. The award-winning hospital was recently designated as a Baby-Friendly institution, only the second birthing facility to be designated as such in Alabama.
According to www.babyfriendlyusa.org, “The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization and the UNICEF in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding.” The website also states the initiative assists hospitals and birthing centers with providing mothers the necessary information, confidence and skills to become successful in breastfeeding their babies.
EAMC began its process of becoming Baby-Friendly in April 2012 and currently has the 7th lowest (c-section)rates in the state and a high rate of VBACs (vaginal birth after cesarian). Dr. Kerri Hensarling said this success goes hand-in-hand with being a Baby-Friendly hospital.
“Not only are we the 7th lowest, but those numbers are much lower than the national average and significantly lower than the Alabama state average,” Hensarling said. “That’s something I’ve been really proud of.”
Dedee Manley, who works as the manager of the labor and delivery wing, said the passion for excellence that EAMC staff has was a driving force in reaching this goal.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘We have a passion for our moms and our babies,’” Manley said. “That passion is what drove us; when those changes came around and we wanted to give up, that passion for excellence, that passion for our moms and babies in the community, that’s what kept us going and what got us here today. We are making a difference in our moms and babies, with their health and their welfare, and we are excited about that opportunity.”
Team leader Cheryl Adams, who is a board-certified lactation consultant, said there were many clinical challenges that went along with the Baby-Friendly certification process. Adams said all labor and delivery nurses went through a 20-hour education course on the Baby-Friendly implementations which include skin-to-skin time immediately after birth as well as “rooming in” that allows babies to spend the entire day with their mothers.
“This was a great accomplishment,” Adams said. “We have to continue to press forward and be the leader in the community that EAMC has always been.”
Dr. Sara Smith T has been a pediatrician at EAMC for 20 years and has had all six of her children at EAMC. Smith T said becoming a Baby-Friendly hospital was a team effort.
“Change is often not easy, but this Baby-Friendly program has been a success because of the nurses,” Smith T said. “The nursing staff that we work with is fabulous, they love the mamas, and they love the babies.”
Smith T also said the policies have changed a great deal since her time as a new mother.
“The biggest change for our patients is our much more coordinated plan of care. It’s been a great thing for us, just for the department as a whole,” Smith T. said.
Pediatrician Rian Anglin said she is proud to be a part of the success EAMC has seen.
“As someone who spends a lot of time in office-based research improving the quality of care that children receive, I’m just astonished and astounded at everything we have accomplished,” Anglin said. “I’m very evidence-based, and breastfeeding is evidence-based. I’m so thankful to see that we are putting the emphasis on that.”
As part of being a Baby-Friendly institution, the hospital offers care that extends beyond childbirth. A breastfeeding support group meets every Thursday and provides new mothers with a forum in which they can share ideas and seek emotional support. One mom new to the area, Leigh Anne White, attends the group with her sixth baby.
“I’ve been to three other hospitals, and this is the best experience I’ve had,” White said. “This is the most success I’ve had at breastfeeding. I’ve felt supported since day one.”