HONOLULU (July 24, 2017) - Healthcare professionals at Tripler Army Medical Center, also known as TAMC, advocate for breastfeeding awareness month coming up in August drawing on the baby-friendly hospital initiative.

The baby-friendly hospital initiative is a world-wide effort prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to encourage healthcare systems to implement evidenced-based practices in support of breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding.

"The baby-friendly hospital initiative puts policies and practices into place that will allow us to make positive impacts with our families. Our goal is to provide education on the benefits of breastfeeding throughout the pregnancy and then help the families meet their individual breastfeeding goals," said Dena Bridgford, TAMC lactation specialist. "Currently we are working on a new feeding policy to address the 'Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding' (principles published by WHO/UNICEF)."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), adherence to these 10 steps has shown to increase rates of breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity; and requires medical and nursing routines and practices adjust to the principle that breastfeeding should begin within the first hour after birth (even for Cesarean deliveries). Infants must also be continuously accessible to the mother by rooming-in arrangements facilitating an around the clock, on demand, feeding schedule.

"The biggest push here at Tripler's labor and delivery department is the first feeding. This is very important because the first feeding contains pre-milk, colostrum, which protects the baby from various illnesses," said Maj. Julie Cowles, TAMC labor and delivery officer in charge.

"After delivery, as soon as the baby is born, the baby is put right on the chest of the mother to initiate bonding through skin-to-skin contact, and the baby stays in the room as long as they can, at least an hour, so the baby can work through all of its transition right there. This prepares the baby for breastfeeding and is one of the very best things for the baby," continued Cowles.

AAP also recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months and then provided breast milk along with other foods until the first year of life.

"Breastfeeding is not always easy. For some reason babies do not always read the manual prior to birth," says Bridgford. "It can be frustrating when you want to breastfeed, but for whatever reason it is not working. It usually takes two to four weeks before a mother will say she has everything figured out. Parents need to remember that it takes time to get comfortable and confident with breastfeeding."

Tripler offers a variety of services that support growing families such as the prenatal breastfeeding class which provides information and tips for successful breastfeeding. Providers and lactation specialists also offer one-on-one consultation to address specific breastfeeding concerns and connect parents with viable resources.

As one of the only hospitals on the island with a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Tripler NICU nurses hosted the 2017 breastfeeding conference earlier this year in April to expand on the baby-friendly hospital initiative, augmenting standardized breastfeeding practices to include the NICU as part of the process. Internationally recognized breastfeeding expert, Dr. Diane Spatz, presented "Implementation of Spatz 10 Steps for Human Milk and Breastfeeding" to incorporate specific lactation support services while caring for newborns that may need special care after delivery.

"At Tripler we want to impact the patient experience and empower families to feel comfortable and confident in both the prenatal and postpartum settings," said Bridgford. "All of the members of the healthcare team are here to help our patients be successful with breastfeeding and the best way to overcome any challenges is to ask for help," added Bridgford.

For more information about breastfeeding, contact a Tripler lactation specialist at 808-433-3732. You can also find facts on breastfeeding throughout the month of August on Tripler's Facebook page in celebration of National Breastfeeding Month at www.facebook.com/TriplerArmyMedicalCenter.