BATON ROUGE - LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert visited Louisiana hospitals participating in the Best Fed Beginnings initiative this week to assess the progress made as each hospital approaches the final phase to become a designated "Baby Friendly" facility.

Best Fed Beginnings is a National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) and Center for Disease Control (CDC) breastfeeding quality improvement initiative collaborative to improve maternity care and increase the number of "Baby-Friendly" hospitals in the U.S.  Only 89 hospitals across the country were selected to participate in this initiative, including four Louisiana hospitals, Terrebonne General Medical Center, East Jefferson General Hospital, Tulane-Lakeside Hospital and Opelousas General Medical Center.

The initiative began in Oct. 2012 and will culminate in Sept. 2014 with an assessment of each hospital by evaluators from the U.S. accrediting body of the World Health Organization's Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.  Each of the four hospitals has made significant improvements in the number of mothers that receive evidence-based practices such as immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth, no separation of mom and baby throughout the hospital stay and exclusive breastfeeding during the hospital stay. 

The LDH Office of Public Health's Bureau of Family Health is assisting the teams' participation in this intensive quality improvement collaborative.  The Bureau of Family Health has been supporting hospitals' incremental adoption of similar quality practices through The Gift Program, a hospital designation program that provides a framework and resources to help Louisiana birthing facilities begin the process of improving breastfeeding outcomes.  Currently, 24 of 58 delivering facilities are designated through The Gift Program.

The Best Fed Beginnings initiative hopes to increase Louisiana's breastfeeding rate, as there are a number of health risks for mothers and children associated with not breastfeeding.  Children that are not breastfed have an increased risk of ear infections, gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections, eczema, asthma, obesity, types 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Mothers who do not breastfeed experience increased risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, obesity, ovarian cancer, post-partum depression and bladder infections.  The benefits of breastfeeding are dose-related; the more breast milk a baby receives, the greater the protection for both mother and baby.

"Louisiana currently ranks 44th nationally for the percentage of infants who have ever breastfed, so it is imperative that we improve," said LDH Secretary Kathy Kliebert.  "The four hospitals participating in the Best Fed Beginnings initiative are setting the standard for maternal and infant health in Louisiana and I encourage all hospitals to adopt the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative practices.  LDH's The GIFT Program is available to help any birthing facility begin its journey to improving quality care through evidence-based practices that are in line with the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative's Ten Steps.  In addition, the LDH Bureau of WIC/Nutrition Services and Bureau of Family Health programs are partnering to help educate physicians and their staff, located in the Best Fed Beginnings communities, through an office based quality improvement program that will consist of free one and a half  hour sessions." 

"At East Jefferson General Hospital, we like a challenge.  When we realized we had an opportunity to participate in the Best Fed Beginnings Collaborative, our team wanted to get involved immediately," said Paula Adamcewicz, RN, EJGH Director of Woman and Child Services.  "East Jefferson General Hospital strives to provide patient-centered care that is evidence-based, so receiving a Baby Friendly Designation seemed to be a natural fit for us.   Educating, supporting and encouraging women to breastfeed their babies is an essential component to long-term breastfeeding success and healthier infants.  Our team is proud to provide specialized educational programs, information and one-on-one assistance to women throughout the breastfeeding experience. We feel this commitment positions EJGH to be one of the premier hospitals for breastfeeding support in the state."

"We are proud to be one of two local hospitals in our community chosen to participate in the Best Fed Beginnings program," said Kim Faught, Vice President of Nursing at Tulane Lakeside Hospital. "This program is an excellent way for East Jefferson General Hospital and Tulane Lakeside to partner to improve the quality of care for newborns in Jefferson Parish.  As Tulane Lakeside prepares to become the area's only dedicated women's and children's facility, we are focusing on many initiatives like Best Fed Beginnings to provide optimal care for mothers and babies."

"Given the research based data on the numerous health benefits of breast feeding for both mother and baby, working toward a baby friendly designation fell right into our mission of providing quality healthcare," said Mark Marly President, CEO of Opelousas General  Health System.  "Our staff, physicians and mothers alike have embraced our breast feeding initiatives and have supported our efforts in becoming baby friendly."

"TGMC is delighted to be one of the few hospitals chosen to participate in this national collaborative effort over a year ago.  Since our participation in the Best Fed Beginnings initiative, have the opportunity to strongly encourage our delivering mothers to breastfeed their newborn babies and to provide a supportive nurturing environment," said Phyllis Peoples, President and CEO.  "We recognize that for women who plan to breastfeed, their experience at TGMC strongly influences a mother's ability to start and continue breastfeeding. We are committed to implementing evidence-based care through the Baby-Friendly designation process. This will ensure that mothers delivering at TGMC who intend to breastfeed are fully supported."

For more information about LDH initiatives, please visit or contact the Bureau of Family Health at 504-568-3504.