Photos courtesy of St. John's Episcopal Hospital

BY SAMANTHA WANDERER

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital (SJEH), which serves the diverse community of Far Rockaway and Five Towns in southern Queens County and southwestern Nassau County, has begun taking steps to become a designated Baby-Friendly Hospital.

The hospital recently held a Celebration of New Life Event, where expecting mothers received education about breastfeeding. To make the learning more exciting, St. John’s Episcopal Hospital included a Jeopardy-style game that gave attendees the chance to win prizes at the event.

“We wanted to create a learning environment that was also fun, and we accomplished just that,” said Denise Potts, MSN-ED, RNC, director of maternal child health.

The event was a step towards the hospital’s goal to be a part of the Baby-Friendly Initiative — a global program led by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The program is designed to encourage practices that support breastfeeding because of its benefits to newborns.

Breastfeeding can improve a child’s survival and health, but it also can prevent chronic conditions that occur later in life like obesity, childhood leukemias, and high blood pressure, according to UNICEF. To become a Baby-Friendly hospital, education must be provided on these benefits and others.

Several ideas are highlighted in the SJEH’s new education programs, which begin when expecting mothers attend their obstetric and gynecological appointments, including the hospital’s belief in the importance of early skin-to-skin contact, frequent feeding on demand, effective positioning and attachment and exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months.

This education is designed to give expecting mothers the information they need to decide for themselves if breastfeeding is the best option for their child and themselves. It also helps mothers learn about other ways they can bond with their newborns early on.

“We have reinvented our labor and delivery procedures to ensure that mothers can make an informed decision about breastfeeding, and are educated about the importance of practices such as immediate skin-to-skin contact at birth to begin forming a bond with their babies,” said Gwen Pinckney, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer.

SJEH said patients have comprehended the information their providers have told them at their regular obstetric and gynecological appointments so far. The hospital applies the teach-back method, in which patients teach the information back to their doctor, to ensure expecting mothers process the information they learn.

“We found the Celebration of New Life event to be successful in that our expecting mothers were engaged and excited to learn,” Potts said.

For more information, visit www.ehs.org.

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