Joey and Amanda Vowell knew UMMC was baby-friendly, so it was their choice for son Renner’s birthplace.
The day Renner was born, word reached UMMC that Baby-Friendly USA agreed, naming the Medical Center a Baby-Friendly birth facility.
Baby-Friendly USA 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. The initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.
To reach the designation, UMMC’s departments had to work together to improve care for mothers and their newborns. Creation of a Mother Baby Unit where infants room in with moms, encouragement of skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby soon after delivery and helping mothers start breastfeeding within an hour after giving birth have all been aimed at providing optimal maternal and baby care, she said.
The Ackerman couple, who are also parents of two daughters, ages 10 and 11, had Renner rooming in as soon after Amanda’s cesarian section as possible. “It’s been nice having him here,” she said. “I was back in my room about noon after Renner was born, and he was with me about 12:30.”
Joey said he was able to follow Renner as he transitioned and then returned.
“I’m a big advocate of this,” said Amanda, who was cradling Renner in her arms as nurse Virgle Smoot checked his vital signs. “We want to give Renner the best start we can.”
Gaining the status was the culmination of a five-year effort that crossed disciplines and departments.
Alice Chaney Herndon, nurse manager in the Mother Baby Unit of Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, found out UMMC had achieved Baby-Friendly status via text during a meeting. “I had to leave the meeting,” she said. “I was just shaking I was so excited!”
Quality specialist Shannon Wentz said the news came almost five years to the day she and a team from UMMC traveled to New Orleans to learn more about the rigorous program.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve worked on in my medical career of more than 20 years,” Wentz said. “For many of us, this has been the challenge of a lifetime.”
“It’s definitely been a team effort,” Wentz said of the process that included staff members from all departments involved in pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care.
The journey wasn’t easy, said Slay Jeffords, newborn nursery nurse manager, but it was a challenge taken on by many, including nurses, physicians and administrators.
UMMC is the second hospital in Mississippi to earn the designation, following Forrest General Hospital, and it is the only hospital in the metro Jackson area to achieve the international award. There are 458 Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the U.S., and more than 20,000 worldwide.
The goal is to increase breastfeeding, which has been proven to be the most complete nutrition for newborns. Scientific studies have shown that breastfed children have far fewer and less serious illnesses and a reduced risk of SIDS, childhood cancers and diabetes than those who never receive breast milk, according to Baby-Friendly USA.
“We know that breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for babies, so we have, for years, focused on encouraging and supporting mothers to give this gift to their newborns,” said Dr. Mobolaji Famuyide, associate professor of neonatology and NICU medical director. “It took the whole village and lots of work, especially by the front-line staff. It is gratifying to see that our combined efforts have been recognized with this international honor.”
The choice is a healthy one for mothers, too, as studies show that women who breastfeed have decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, anemia and osteoporosis.
“It feels pretty amazing that the hard work and dedication of our staff over the last several years has resulted in an improved birthing experience for our patients,” said Dr. Amber Shiflett, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “We will continue to strive for excellence in patient care and promotion of mother-infant bonding and breastfeeding.”
“We want to give babies the best start in life possible,” said Dr. Mary Taylor, interim chair of pediatrics, “and that means encouraging breastfeeding, which is healthiest for mother and baby, and letting mothers and newborns have precious bonding time together as soon as possible.”