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Women & Infants to participate in national effort to increase breastfeeding rates

Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island has been selected to participate in Best Fed Beginnings, a first-of-its-kind national effort to significantly improve breastfeeding rates in states where rates are currently the lowest. Rhode Island ranks 35th in the nation for breastfeeding initiation. Women & Infants is the only hospital in New England to be selected for this collaborative.

Although breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers, half of US-born babies are given formula within the first week, and by nine months, only 31% of babies are breastfeeding at all. Best Fed Beginnings seeks to reverse these trends by dramatically increasing the number of US hospitals implementing a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother's choice to breastfeed. The National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort through a cooperative funding agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will be working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.

"Women & Infants Hospital is very proud to have been chosen to participate in this important effort and to have the opportunity to improve our maternity care services to better support breastfeeding," said Angelleen Peters-Lewis, RN, PhD, senior vice president of Patient Care Services. "We recognize that for women who plan to breastfeed, the hospital experience strongly influences a mother's ability to start and continue breastfeeding. We are committed to implementing evidence-based care through the Baby-Friendly designation process. This will ensure that mothers delivering in our facility who intend to breastfeed are fully supported."

Women & Infants is among 90 hospitals selected from 235 applicants to participate in this initiative. The groups will work together in a 22-month learning collaborative, using proven quality improvement methods to transform their maternity care services in pursuit of "Baby-Friendly" designation. This designation verifies that a hospital has comprehensively implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as established in the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Breastfeeding rates are higher and disparities in these rates are virtually eliminated in hospitals that achieve this status.

"We look forward to working with Women & Infants Hospital and congratulate them on their successful application," said Charlie Homer, MD, MPH, president and CEO of NICHQ. "The large number of applications we received affirms the commitment of hospitals across our country to be part of a health care system that truly focuses on promoting health for women and infants. We are especially pleased that we received so many applications from hospitals in states where there are so few facilities with Baby-Friendly designation and from hospitals that serve populations of women who now are much less likely to breastfeed."

Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers. For infants, it decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. It also decreases infants' risk of becoming obese later in childhood. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.


Contact: Amy Blustein
Women & Infants Hospital

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