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Activate Allen County: breastfeeding a high priority for Allen County hospitals

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Activate Allen County in Lima Ohio

Courtesy Activate Allen County

As we look around at all the great work being done across the county in regards to promotion of health and wellness, there are many success stories that come to mind. Today, we focus on our hospitals and the wonderful work that is taking place around breastfeeding support and protection. Breastfeeding is the best first food for infants. Breast milk provides a perfect nutritional balance for infants.

Here in Allen County, our three hospitals are continuing their work to promote breastfeeding to new mothers. Recently, Bluffton Hospital, Lima Memorial Health System and St. Rita’s Medical Center were all recognized through the state of Ohio by joining a statewide breastfeeding initiative.

In 2015, The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association launched Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies to encourage hospitals to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. This program allows for hospitals to work through the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding at a pace that makes sense and works for each individual hospital. After 2 steps are completed, hospitals across the state are invited and asked to supply information pertaining to how they reached their chosen steps successfully.

Some pieces of the 10 steps include; having an extensive written breastfeeding policy for the hospital, train staff in the skills needed to execute the policy and assist mothers as needed, help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, allow mothers and infants to room together 24/7, give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to infants and connect mothers with breastfeeding support and assistance on discharge from the hospital. Achieving these steps requires hospitals to re-vamp policies and in some ways change the culture of how care is given in the hospital. These changes are not always easy, but our county hospitals have made the choice to create a culture and atmosphere where breastfeeding is valued and encouraged.

The Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies program is based on 5 tiers, with hospitals going up to the next tier each time 2 steps are completed. Hospitals are able to apply and submit information to the state on a quarterly basis. We are so happy to report that Bluffton Hospital, Lima Memorial Health System and St. Rita’s Medical Center have achieved tier 1 of the program and have plans to continue climbing the tiers of the program in the near future. This is a wonderful accomplishment and recognition and we are excited to see Allen County hospitals moving forward to support, promote, protect and encourage breastfeeding to all the mothers giving birth within our county.

To learn more about Ohio First Steps, you can visit The Ohio Department of Health’s website- odh.ohio.gov or call the Activate Allen County office at 419-221-5035.