August 18, 2015–Experts agree breastfeeding is the best source of
nutrition for babies to develop, grow, and stay healthy. Yet some new
mothers need a little extra help understanding the benefits of breastfeeding
and learning how to nurse their baby effectively. Southeast Georgia Health
System is proud to be part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative led
by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to give new mothers guidance
for achieving optimal breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding outcomes.
“Breastfeeding is one of the best ways for mothers to improve both
their baby’s health, and their own health,” says Lee B. Heery,
M.D., board certified pediatrician with Southeast Georgia Physician Associates-St.
Simons Pediatrics, a strategic affiliate of the Health System. “It
protects babies from common childhood infections, asthma, obesity, and
diabetes, and helps mothers lose pregnancy weight and reduce the risk
for conditions such as heart disease and certain cancers.”
Southeast Georgia Health System is on track to achieve the prestigious
Baby-Friendly designation by September 2016. The Baby-Friendly designation
recognizes hospitals that provide optimal support for breastfeeding by
implementing a ten-step plan to successful breastfeeding.
The plan, developed by a team of global experts, consists of evidence-based
practices that have been shown to increase rates of breastfeeding initiation
and duration, and help mothers bond with their newborns. Since starting
the Baby-Friendly designation journey, the number of new mothers who exclusively
breastfeed during their stay at the Health System maternity care centers
has risen with rates as high as 76 percent.
The Health System offers childbirth education and breastfeeding courses
during pregnancy, where women learn important skills including baby positioning
during feedings, maintaining lactation and breast pumping techniques.
After delivery, the nursing team offers guidance and encourages mothers
to begin breastfeeding within the first hour of their baby’s life.
“Studies have found that the sooner you can get breastfeeding started,
the more likely the overall success for the mom and the baby,” says
Shannon Wainright, R.N., MBA, director, Patient Care Services at Southeast
Georgia Health System.
One of the practices encourages skin-to-skin contact in the first moments
of a baby’s life, regardless of feeding choice. Nurses place newborns
directly on their mother’s chest after birth, which helps regulate
the baby’s body temperature, heart rate, and breathing without the
need for medical intervention.
“The transition from the womb to the outside world is easier for
babies when they’re placed on the mom skin-to-skin,” Wainright
says. “It also aids breastfeeding. The baby is more likely to latch
on, and to latch more effectively after this type of bonding occurs.”
Skin-to-skin contact worked well for St. Simons Island resident Heidi
Harris and her newborn son, Miles, now five weeks old. “My son was
placed on my chest, skin-to-skin, immediately after he was born and he
was nursing within 20 minutes. I believe this, along with the support
of all the nurses who cared for both of us, has helped me be able to exclusively
breastfeed my son.”
Wainright adds, “It’s not just about that first moment, but
about the overall bonding experience and relationship built immediately
between the mom and baby. The skin-to-skin practice has been the biggest
change for the Health System, and the one we’re most proud of.”
The Health System continues to offer resources when mothers return home
to ensure continued breastfeeding success. Support groups are available
at both the Brunswick and Camden campuses to provide encouragement and
a toll-free “warm line” also offers support and additional
“I attended the childbirth and breastfeeding classes prior to my
daughter’s birth three years ago,” said Harris. “The
classes, as well as the breastfeeding support group that I attended following
the birth of my oldest son, were very informative and provided me with
the knowledge and confidence to breastfeed them exclusively through their
The Health System also implemented a Breastfeeding Initiative Work Plan
and Policy, championed by Dr. Heery, and reaches out to mothers in the
community through health fairs, brochures, breastfeeding classes and support groups.
“The Baby-Friendly initiative is about improving breastfeeding,
as well as embracing many best practices techniques that result in better
outcomes for moms and babies,” says Wainright.
Achieving Baby-Friendly status is a hospital-wide effort. “All of
our nurses have completed 15 hours of classroom training and then five
hours of hands-on training. Physicians working in our unit are required
to have three hours of breastfeeding instruction, and any department that
comes into contact with maternity, including radiology, housekeeping,
and emergency care, receives one hour of training,” explains Kim
S. Buckley, R.N., BSN, manager, Patient Care Services at the Health System’s
Miriam & Hugh Nunnally Maternity Care Center. “The bottom line
is we all want to be saying the same thing and work together to achieve
the best outcome for mom and baby.”
In an effort to track the initiative’s success, Southeast Georgia
Health System collects a wide range of data including breastfeeding rates,
mother’s feeding preference (breast, formula, or both), and skin-to-skin
bonding. Additionally, the Health System receives updates directly from
the patients impacted by the initiative. “The feedback from parents
and nurses, and the reaction from babies has been very positive,”
To learn more about maternity care services offered at Southeast Georgia
Health System, please visit sghs.org. For more information about the Baby-Friendly
Hospital Initiative, visit
The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all
health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they
are separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically
- Practice "rooming in"-allowing mothers and infants to remain
together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers
to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.