The Department of Health (DHH) is helping hospitals statewide increase access to breastfeeding support and resources for Louisiana mothers. More maternity hospitals than ever before, 82 percent, are participating in The Gift, a LDH breastfeeding quality initiative and designation program.
"As the state's health department, our goal is to help educate Louisiana mothers in the importance of breastfeeding for their infants and to help hospitals strengthen the support offered to new moms," said LDH Secretary Kathy H. Kliebert. "Studies show that breastfeeding translates to better health for both babies and mothers, and that those health benefits persist throughout life."
Support and encouragement help make success possible for mothers who wish to breastfeed. One of Louisiana's key initiatives aimed at helping hospitals improve their policies and practices around infant feeding and mother-baby bonding called The Gift. The Gift is an evidence-based program for Louisiana birthing facilities designed to increase breastfeeding rates and hospital success by improving the quality of maternity services and enhancing patient-centered care. Expectant mothers are shown how to breastfeed, educated on the benefits and management of breastfeeding, cue-based feeding and referred to breastfeeding support groups on discharge from the hospital or birth center. Eighty two percent of Louisiana hospitals have either achieved Gift designations or are working towards designation. Twenty seven out of 52 infant delivery facilities in the state are Gift designated and five of those hospitals have achieved the prestigious, global Baby-Friendly designation.
Baby-Friendly Designated Hospitals
- Terrebonne General Medical Center
- Opelousas General Health System
- East Jefferson General Hospital
- Tulane Lakeside Hospital for Women and Children
- Ochsner Medical Center Baton Rouge
A list of all available hospitals that have received The Gift designation are available here: http://www.thegiftla.org/gift-designated-facilities.
August is National Breastfeeding Month. LDH's Bureau of Family Health's initiative Educating Physicians In their Communities on Breastfeeding, Education, Support and Training (EPIC-BEST) aims to educate pediatric, family and obstetric providers and staff on best breastfeeding practices. This free program has reached over 300 physicians and staff statewide. The Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition (LBC) also re-launched its "Ban the Bags, Louisiana!" campaign to remove formula company sponsored giveaways from hospitals (this is an internationally-recognized best practice). Research shows that providers also play a critical role in breastfeeding support.
Benefits to infants from either breastfeeding or receiving expressed breast milk are:
- nutritionally balanced meals;
- protection against common childhood illnesses and infections;
- a better chance of survival during the first year of life, including lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome;
- a lower chance of developing some allergic diseases;
- a lower chance of developing type 1 diabetes; and
- physical and emotional benefits of breastfeeding directly from the mother's breast due to skin-to-skin contact.
To make breastfeeding work, mothers also need breastfeeding support from employers and the community. Over 100 Louisiana employers, including LDH, have been recognized as a Breastfeeding-Friendly Workplace or Champion for providing lactation accommodations to employees. A Black Mothers' Breastfeeding Club® was implemented in Shreveport to assist with reducing racial disparities in breastfeeding support. Black Breastfeeding Week is celebrated August 25th through 31st.
Louisiana's four local breastfeeding coalitions are actively engaging community stakeholders to promote resources and consistent breastfeeding messages. The Bureau of Family Health is working with hospitals, WIC and breastfeeding coalitions to build an online database of breastfeeding resources by zip code that will be searchable by a mobile app.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC Program) and the Bureau of Family Health, collaborate to support the efforts of Communities and Hospitals Advancing Maternity Practices or CHAMPS, birthing hospitals working towards achieving Baby-Friendly status and other community partners to increase breastfeeding rates in the state. Local WIC clinics across the state have planned special breastfeeding support events to engage and provide breastfeeding education to the community, sharing the benefits of breastfeeding by hosting breastfeeding showers, health fairs, attending speaking engagements and disseminating breastfeeding education materials within their communities.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH's Twitter account and Facebook.