BALTIMORE, MD--(Marketwired - May 18, 2015) - MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center is raising the standard of care for infant and maternal health as the first hospital in Baltimore, and one of only two in the state of Maryland, to achieve the prestigious Baby-Friendly designation from Baby-Friendly USA.

"We are thrilled and honored to be the first hospital in Baltimore to receive this exclusive designation," said Samuel Smith, MD, chair of the department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MedStar Franklin Square. "As a Baby-Friendly hospital, our community can be confident that we provide not only safe and high quality maternity care, but also the best level of care for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding."

"Breastfeeding contributes to the life-long emotional and physical health of our new moms and their babies, and helps to improve the health of our communities," Dr. Smith adds. "This was an exciting and challenging journey and I am extremely proud of our staff."

Part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a global program launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), this coveted five-year designation recognizes facilities that are committed to providing an optimal level of care to mothers and their babies through the support and promotion of breastfeeding practices. Currently, only 8.7 percent of birthing facilities in the United States are designated -- MedStar Franklin Square is one of 260 Baby-Friendly facilities out of an estimated 3,000.

Breastfeeding is associated with a number of health benefits for both the baby and mother. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness, lowering their risk of several diseases including diabetes, asthma, childhood obesity, childhood leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding also helps a mother's health and healing following childbirth. Research shows long term health benefits for the mother include lower rates of breast, cervical and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis and postpartum depression.

"We have long championed the benefits of breastfeeding," said Cheryl Wood, MSN, CRNP, NE-BC, administrative director for Women's and Children Services at MedStar Franklin Square "This designation further demonstrates the extra steps our team has taken to provide the tools and continuous support our mothers need -- before, during and after birth -- to ensure their babies are given the best possible start to a healthy life."

To receive Baby-Friendly designation, MedStar Franklin Square completed a rigorous on-site survey to determine compliance with the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding -- a series of evidence-based practices shown to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration. The steps, endorsed by the major maternal and child health authorities in the United States, including the CDC, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, provide guidance to ensure mothers receive the necessary information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies.

The award is given to only those facilities that demonstrate successful integration of all ten steps into their practice for healthy newborns. To retain designation, facilities must engage in ongoing efforts to ensure that the standards are maintained. Hospitals must report statistics annually and can apply for re-designation at the end of the five-year period.

Breastfeeding rates continue to rise in the United States. In 2011, the CDC reports, 79 percent of all newborns were breastfed. However, those numbers dropped with 49 percent breastfeeding at six months and only 27 percent after a year. According to the journal Pediatrics, mothers who give birth at Baby-Friendly facilities are more likely to initiate exclusive breastfeeding and more likely to sustain breastfeeding at six months and one year of age. In the U.S., new mothers exposed to at least six of the Ten Steps were 13 times more likely to continue breastfeeding at six weeks postpartum when compared to mothers who had not been exposed to any of the Ten Steps during their birthing hospitalization.

MedStar Franklin Square delivered 2,874 babies in 2014, a number that is expected to grow to 3,000 in 2015. When the hospital began its journey two years ago to attaining a Baby-Friendly status, the exclusive breastfeeding rate was only 25 percent. Today, that number has almost doubled, increasing to 47.8 percent.

"The success of exclusive breastfeeding is a collaborative effort, starting with prenatal education," said Shirley Kowalewski, BSN, RNC-MNN, nurse manager of the MedStar Franklin Square Women's Health Center and the Mother/Baby Unit. "It is our priority to educate every expectant mother about the benefits and management of breastfeeding. The success of breastfeeding for our mothers and babies has increased drastically due to this focus on prenatal education, followed by strong postpartum support from our team of skilled experts."

Postpartum, the team of experts at MedStar Franklin Square, including nurses, pediatricians, neonatologists and lactation consultants, are on hand to help mothers initiate breastfeeding and maintain practice upon discharge from the hospital.

Additionally, in the event a baby needs to spend time in the Neonatal Care Unit (NICU), MedStar Franklin Square has special initiatives in place to improve the rate of exclusive breastfeeding for even the most fragile infants -- resulting in 95 percent of NICU mothers being able to provide breast milk to their infants while in the NICU.

Jennifer Smith, BSN, RNC, NE-BC, nurse manager of Labor and Delivery at MedStar Franklin Square, emphasizes the importance of mother infant skin-to-skin contact, a practice that the team at MedStar Franklin Square encourages immediately and continuously after birth.

"The immediate skin-to-skin contact of the newborn with mom has had a dramatic positive impact on maternal-newborn bonding and breastfeeding success," said Smith.

"All of our pediatricians and neonatologists have worked hard at helping promote breastfeeding for all the babies born at our hospital," Scott Krugman, MD, chair of the department of Pediatrics at MedStar Franklin Square. "Seeing our breastfeeding rates increase has helped improve outcomes in our NICU and helped promote a healthy start for all the babies in our community."

To learn more about OB services at MedStar Franklin Square, click here.

Contact Information:

Megan Lutz
Phone: 410-554-2781