BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's been a busy week at the Family Birthing Center at Ochsner Medical Center in Baton Rouge. Staff there are preparing for the hospital's first O Baby! Expo.
The Expo will be an educational event with seminars, vendors and classes for current and potential patients of the Family Birthing Center.
"We want our participants to understand the customized approached that we have and that this is your birth, your way," said director of women's services Cindy Briody. The Expo is Saturday, August 2, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the hospital's main campus off O'Neal Lane. The event also corresponds with another important campaign being promoted by the hospital, World Breastfeeding Week.
"Now we've realized that breast feeding is kind of the cornerstone of being healthy for life," said certified lactation specialist Jessica Evins. However, staff is most excited about a new international honor the hospital received this week.
Ochsner is the first hospital in Louisiana to be designated as Baby Friendly. Fewer than 200 hospitals in the nation hold this honor.
"It's a guarantee to the public of what they're going to receive. It means that this hospital is going to meet certain requirements that are evidence based every single time," explained Evins.
The hospital has worked for three years to achieve baby friendly status through extensive staff education and policy changes. Baby Friendly is an international standard established by the World Health Organization which focuses on the importance of breast feeding and other practices that are proven to lead to healthier babies and moms.
"The goal outcome, healthy momma, healthy baby. Moms that feel confident that they go home and I really know how to take care of my baby. I didn't leave the hospital with the staff doing it for me," said Evins.
There are 10 rigorous steps a hospital must undergo to become Baby Friendly, including educating the staff and patients on the benefits of breastfeeding. The hospital also implemented new polices such as keeping the baby in the same room as the mother instead of the nursery if medically possible.
Another standard is practicing something called "skin to skin." This means that immediately after birth, if there are no medical problems, that a baby is put skin to skin with the mother.
"It's to help the baby transition to extra-uterine life. It helps them breathe better; it helps regulate their temperature; it helps mom start bonding and fall in love with her baby," said Evins.
While some of the policies can be challenging for staff, Evins says the benefit to the patients is more important.Evins explained that being Baby Friendly means helping the mom make the best decisions about her and her baby's care. While breastfeeding is encouraged, the choice to breastfeed and birthing options are still up to the mother. Evins says the staff is also extensively trained in safe formula use.
Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals Kathy Kliebert says the Baby Friendly designation is a great step for the care of Louisiana mothers. Kliebert believes the long term benefits of breast feeding will create healthier residents, and possibly reduce health care costs. Studies show that breastfeed babies have fewer infections, illnesses and hospital visits.
"The idea that this hospital did it and that hospitals can do it without much commitment of resources, just some people who are really passionate and want to make it happen," said Kliebert.
For more information on being Baby Friendly, click here.