“Baby Friendly Initiative” Promotes That Breast Is Best

Aug 16, 2013

How a baby begins life after birth affects the rest of the baby’s development. The Baby Friendly Initiative, begun by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, recognizes that. It currently has made inroads in 152 countries, including the United States, and now Oklahoma. The first hospital to make the grade is Claremore Indian Hospital.

Native Woman Breast Feeding Her Child
Credit Drawing by Robert Sisk (Loyal Shawnee/Eastern Delaware)

Georgiana Sweetwater, who goes by Gibby and is from the Pawnee Nation, is the Nurse Manager for OB In-Patient Services and Women’s Clinic. She attended a workshop sponsored by the United Nations in Albuquerque.

“The workshop was great, it gave us the opportunity to work with thirteen other IHS facilities that also deliver babies and do maternal and child care in-patient,” Sweetwater said.

“One of the things that was brought out in the last 20 years is an increase in the rate of diabetes, obesity amongst our young people and there's a direct correlation and tie to formula feeding.”

At nearly 16.1 percent, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence of diabetes among all U.S. racial and ethnic groups, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Jenna Myer is a Lieutenant in the U.S. Public Health Service and works at Claremore Indian Hospital. She is also the Lactation Consultant and Baby Friendly Initiative coordinator. She said the first thing that had to be done was re-write and update policies on maternal and child care.

“My goal was to help implement to successful breast feeding. We worked on staff education which is the foundation. They need to be very strong in their skills to assist moms and babies in that initial period after birth,” Myer said.

“We began implementing the policies we had established. We made sure that all of our moms, regardless of their feeding choice, were getting education prenatally,” Myer said.

Myer said the new practices included immediate skin to skin contact after delivery and the promotion of exclusive breast feeding. “We got away from supplementing formula or encouraging artificial nipples of any kind,” Meyer said.

Another step was to leave mom and baby in the room together, unless there is a medical necessity. Mayer said the offering of post-partum support groups was empowering to the new mothers and helped them to be more successful.

Claremore Indian Hospital serves all native nation members in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri and Kansas.