UMMC earns redesignation as Baby-Friendly Hospital
Published on Tuesday, January 3, 2023
By: Annie Oeth, email@example.com
Photos By: Melanie Thortis/ UMMC Communications
A journey that started a decade ago at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has passed the mile marker of redesignation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital.
UMMC is the first hospital in the Jackson area to be redesignated as a Baby-Friendly Hospital and the second in the state to reach the milestone. Currently, Mississippi has 26 designated Baby-Friendly Hospitals. In the U.S. 590 facilities carry the Baby-Friendly designation, representing 27.96 percent of births each year.
The redesignation is granted by Baby-Friendly USA, the U.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 program encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
Tierra Ralph of Jackson said she and daughter Aloria, born Dec. 29, received the best of care while at UMMC.
“Everything has gone really smoothly,” she said. “The nurses have been amazing.”
To become a Baby-Friendly Hospital, UMMC’s departments had to work together to improve care for mothers and their newborns. Creation of a Mother Baby Unit where infants room in with moms, encouragement of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby soon after delivery and helping mothers start breastfeeding within an hour after giving birth have all been aimed at providing optimal maternal and baby care.
“This re-designation is a tribute to our ongoing commitment to ensure that every woman who delivers a baby at our facility is given the resources, information, and support needed to help her and her baby get the best, healthiest start in life,” said UMMC Director of Adult Nursing Alice Chaney Herndon. “I am so thankful and proud of our OB-GYN and pediatric teams that have put in the hard work, energy and effort to ensure we are doing what is considered the gold standard for moms and babies.”
Redesignation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital, she said, was “grueling.”
“We’re constantly doing audits of breastfeeding rates and prenatal education and talking with mothers in real-time audits,” she said.
Data is submitted to Baby-Friendly USA annually, but training as a Baby-Friendly Hospital continues all year.
“We perform breastfeeding training annually to our nurses, and we make sure our providers are trained in Baby-Friendly methods,” she said.
First designated as a Baby-Friendly Hospital in 2017, UMMC's work on redesignation during the COVID-19 pandemic shifted to virtual meetings.
“This made it more difficult,” Herndon said. “There was so much they could see but also things that were harder to observe virtually, such as our culture. The southern hospitality and the way our care team interacts with patients is a strength that is hard to experience in a virtual meeting.”
Being a Baby-Friendly Hospital requires ongoing effort. “Every day we’re making sure we meet our metrics,” she said.
The achievement earned UMMC a nod as CHEER CHAMPion by the Center for Health Equity, Education and Research, one of the leading maternity care research, teaching and advocacy organizations in the country.
Baby-Friendly practices at UMMC are spreading, with skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby becoming the practice in post-anesthesia care following cesarian sections as well as after vaginal births.
Breastfeeding education is prevalent at UMMC’s Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, and time at patients’ bedsides allows nurses to teach new mothers best breastfeeding and baby care practices. UMMC also offers breastfeeding interprofessional education as well as breastfeeding training in its School of Medicine and School of Nursing.
Infants and mothers both reap health benefits from breastfeeding, so much so that the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund recommend that breastfeeding be initiated within the first hour after birth, continued exclusively for the first 6 months of life and continued, with safe and adequate complementary foods, up to 2 years or beyond.