FORT BELVOIR, Va. (July 25, 2014) -- Increasing its ability to afford patients the highest standard of care, Fort Belvoir Community Hospital recently became only one of two medical facilities in Virginia and one of four military treatment facilities in the Military Health System to hold accreditation through the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

The accreditation, awarded by Baby-Friendly USA, Inc., or BFHI, this month, signifies the hospital's commitment to educating and providing mothers with the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully breastfeed their babies or feed formula safely.

An international evidenced-based wellness program, the BFHI provides families with a strong foundation in the early days of a baby's life by ensuring patients receive the same information on breastfeeding, infant feeding, and caring for their baby regardless of where they receive care in the hospital.

"In essence [BFHI] is about empowering families to improve the health and well-being of their child and themselves," said Lt. Col. Gabrielle Maybee, medical director of quality. "Belvoir hospital is serious about focusing on the wellness of the families in our community."

Accreditation through BFHI is a four-year, four-step, hospital-wide performance improvement process aimed at giving mothers and families the tools to be successful at initiating and maintaining breastfeeding within moments of delivery and up until -- ideally -- two years postpartum.

During the process, members of the accreditation team evaluated hospital processes and observed providers and nursing staff on site as they delivered "patient-centered and patient-focused" care.

Inspectors expressed that they were impressed by several initiatives implemented at Belvoir hospital, Maybee said, such as the skin-to-skin project which allows mothers who have cesarean deliveries to experience close contact with their infants within minutes of delivery instead of waiting until they are moved to a recovery room.

Additionally, the Breastfeeding Resource Nurse course provided an additional breastfeeding course for nursing and other staff outside the inpatient setting to improve the support that mothers and infants receive in all clinical spaces.

"Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative isn't just a maternal child initiative, it is a hospital initiative," said Navy Capt. Jane French, former section chief for Maternal-Child and Behavioral Health Nursing. "A BFHI certification tells our patients that we care about the first days together as a family with the parents getting to know how to respond and care for their newborn. The staff has been educated on how to support every parents feeding decision by giving them the information they need to be successful."

Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. is the accrediting body for the BFHI in the United States. This is a global program launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund in 1991, to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. It recognizes and awards birthing facilities who successfully implement the "Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding" and the "International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes."

For more details about the BFHI, visit the Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. website at