Mercy Hospital Springfield Awarded for Breastfeeding Efforts

Tara Carr and baby Hayes

Seconds after her youngest child was born, mother of five Tara Carr felt a bond that she’d never experienced before.

“My children have all been born at Mercy, but this time they were encouraging skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery,” she said. “Hayes wasn’t rushed away and all of his assessments were done right there by me. I even got to see his first bath. What an amazing experience!”

Because of new hands-on opportunities like Tara’s, Mercy Hospital Springfield has made a giant leap toward becoming “Baby Friendly.” The health system is being honored with the “Show-Me 5” and "Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite" awards by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services for newborn breastfeeding and newborn care.

“Those first moments of life are extremely delicate,” said Cindy Whitten, vice president of women’s services and Mercy Kids. “A mom’s first instinct is to hold her child, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Family-centered maternity care is provided in the same room to help guide moms and their little ones to live a healthier and more balanced life.”

The “Show Me 5” Hospital Initiative: Taking the First Steps to Being “Baby Friendly” certification requires hospitals to meet five criteria:

  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth
  • Practice “rooming-in,” allowing infants to stay in the same room as their mothers
  • Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated
  • Avoid pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge

The Missouri Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite Program is a collaboration between the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Missouri Breastfeeding Coalition to educate employers on the value of providing lactation support in the workplace and to recognize businesses that support their breastfeeding employees.

Employer support of breastfeeding provides many benefits to businesses:

  • Cost savings of $3 per $1 invested in nursing support
  • Reduced absenteeism to care for sick children because breastfed infants have less illness
  • Lower health care costs
  • Improved employee productivity with higher morale and greater employee loyalty
  • Increased ability to attract and retain valuable employees
  • Family-friendly image in the community

“We’ve made a lot of changes over the last year,” said Dr. Tamara Fusco, medical director of Mercy’s Family Resource Center & Lactation Services. “We have a renewed emphasis on prenatal education about the amazing benefits of breastfeeding. Therefore, new parents can make an informed decision about the way they would like to feed their newborn.”

Dr. Fusco is one of only 107 fellows of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, a worldwide organization of physicians dedicated to promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding and human lactation. She is among nine internationally Board-certified lactation consultants at Mercy who offer increased availability for outpatient lactation services, support groups, and inpatient breastfeeding support for well newborns as well as patients in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

“With Family Centered Maternity Care, the physicians and nurses do all the care in the room,” added Dr. Fusco. “When I do the first examination of the baby, it’s an interactive experience with the parents.  As I go through the exam, I can tell them my findings, such as “Your baby’s heart sounds great.  I don’t hear any murmurs.” Instead of just taking care of the baby, physicians and nurses can also teach families – they’re learning cues from the baby in the same environment.”

“My son was with me all but 30 minutes,” said Tara Carr. “I believe that’s why my milk came in on day three, as opposed to day five with my previous children. All of my other children had to have light treatment for jaundice. This baby didn't, and I completely believe it is because my milk came in earlier.”

“The benefits can be felt by mother and baby for a lifetime,” said Tammy Titus, family resource coordinator. “Research has shown that childhood leukemias, as well as breast and ovarian cancers, will be decreased with breastfeeding.”

According to the American Academy in Pediatrics (AAP), the risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections in the first year is reduced 72 percent if infants breastfeed exclusively for more than 4 months. It’s also associated with a 36 percent reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). AAP also notes more than 900 infant lives per year may be saved in the U.S. if 90 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed for 6 months.

At Mercy Hospital Springfield, about 88 percent of mothers initiate breastfeeding; exclusive breastfeeding has increased by about 20 percent since early 2013. “Those numbers translate into numerous health benefits for both the baby and mother,” said Dr. Fusco, who also serves on the Greater Ozarks Regional Breastfeeding Coalition. “The research is compelling.  It shows that mothers’ milk is the healthiest form of infant nutrition. We’re in good company; the World Health Organization, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the U.S. Surgeon General, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Joint Commission all support breastfeeding.”

Mercy Springfield plans to continue its journey in creating an environment that is supportive of best practices in maternity care and of optimal infant feeding by implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding of the “Baby Friendly” Hospital Initiative (BFHI). Those steps include creating a breastfeeding policy, training employees on that policy, informing expectant mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding, encouraging breastfeeding on demand, and teaching mothers how to breastfeed.

“Our goal is for families to have a wonderful birth experience and to promote research based practices to improve maternal/child health,” added Dr. Fusco. “By implementing the remaining five steps, we’ll continue to improve patient-centered care and increase rates of breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity.”

“My experience was more personal than ever before,” said Tara. “It was more beneficial to not only my health, but also Hayes’ health. I got to learn more about baby and baby got to learn more about me.”

To learn more about the MDHSS’s “Show-Me 5” and “Baby Friendly” designations, click here.

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