By Carlotta Mohamed
After receiving its official Baby-Friendly USA designation, Flushing Hospital Medical Center celebrated National Breastfeeding Week Tuesday by educating members of the community about the importance of breastfeeding and demonstrating proper techniques to new or expectant mothers.
Last month, Flushing Hospital Medical Center, located at 4500 Parsons Blvd., received its Baby-Friendly USA designation and Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) issued a citation to the hospital staff recognizing its implementation of several breastfeeding initiatives within the hospital and in the communities it serves.
“Flushing Hospital offers outstanding care for breastfeeding mothers by providing them with important information and skills for successful breastfeeding. I commend the hospital and its staff for all the work they do in this area and I was proud to join them in celebrating this honor,” said Meng.
Baby-Friendly USA Inc., is 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.
“It takes many years and dedicated workers and staff to educate everyone and getting everyone involved,” said Dr. Hajoon Chun, chairman of OB/GYN at Flushing Hospital. “It really tells you how dedicated we are in supporting this initiative and supporting the hospital.”
To receive Baby-Friendly status, institutions must successfully implement the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding,” which include providing appropriate education to enable families to make informed decisions about infant feeding, encouraging mothers to hold their babies skin-to-skin immediately following birth, and offering expert lactation support throughout and beyond the hospital stay.
The hospital also has an available room for the community and mothers to breastfeed in private, if need be.
Jimena Grimaldi, a lactation specialist at the hospital, said their goal is to educate expectant mothers on how breastfeeding is a key nutritional value for their newborns, and how it fortifies bonding between the new mom and baby.
Maria DeMarinis Smilios, director of Nursing for the Maternal and Children Services Department, said the hospital started a support group and breastfeeding education classes prenatally free of charge on a weekly basis in its prenatal ambulatory care center.
“Baby-Friendly isn’t just about breastfeeding, it’s also about informing our expectant mothers to make the decision that’s right for them,” said Smilios. “They decide according to the benefits for the mom and baby and it’s an informed decision based on their choice, and we support them 100 percent.”
According to Smilios, babies who are breastfed milk during the first six months of life have less chances for allergies, respiratory diseases, problems with the gastroenterol tract, reduced risks of an ear infection, obesity, diabetes and fewer admissions to the hospital.
The hospital’s goals are in line with Healthy People 2020 breastfeeding objectives put in place by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase the number of infants who have ever breastfed to 81 percent and boost the number of infants breastfeeding at six months of age to 60.6 percent.
To further reach members of the community, the hospital offers breastfeeding education in several different languages– Spanish, Chinese, Urdu and Hindi– at public libraries free of charge, said Smilios.
“We talk about nutrition for the newborn as well as for these new mothers and eliminating high fructose items and having a diet that’s balanced and talk about the different food groups,” said Smilios. “It doesn’t stop here at the time of birth, it certainly continues afterwards into the community.”
Gianina Enriquez, an early learning specialist at the Queens Library branch in Corona, said she has more than 30 mothers attending the “Baby-and-Me” program every week.
“The Spanish population that we have there, they didn’t know where to go with their babies,” she said.
Enriquez said her program has grown tremendously with more mothers attending classes since the program began four years ago.
“This is all free because we know the community is a part of us,” said Smilios. “It’s not just for the patients that are hospitalized, we want our babies to be healthy, too.”
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha