After WBEZ report, hospital steps up breastfeeding efforts

August 2, 2011

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(courtesy of Holy Cross Hospital)
Holy Cross is the first Chicago hospital to register in the U.N.'s Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

A Southwest Side hospital with the Chicago area’s lowest newborn breastfeeding rate is trying to step up its game. Holy Cross has become the first Chicago hospital to register in a United Nations program called the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

Holy Cross opened a new maternity ward in February 2010. A year later, however, less than 7 percent of the ward’s 263 newborns had breastfed there, according to Illinois birth-certificate data.

A May report by WBEZ about Holy Cross’s breastfeeding performance made improvement a priority, says Anna Carvalho, the hospital’s vice president of strategic planning and business development. “Your [report] put it front-and-center for us,” she says.

To achieve the Baby Friendly designation, Holy Cross is planning to tap federal help for staff training. “A safety-net hospital like this is scrambling for every opportunity,” Carvalho says. “So this one was a no-brainer.”

Carvalho points out that many Holy Cross maternity-ward patients did not receive prenatal care. “We’re trying to figure out ways to work with the community so that the first conversation about breastfeeding isn’t happening at the time of delivery but is happening in advance,” she says.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies get nothing but breast milk for their first six months to avoid health problems such as obesity and diabetes.

But a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report out Tuesday says nearly 80 percent of U.S. hospitals give babies formula when not medically necessary.