Harrison Birth Center receives silver award from Breastfeeding Friendly Washington

One step closer to being designated as “Baby Friendly USA.”

BREMERTON — Harrison Medical Center’s Family Birth Center knows that giving birth is only the first step for mothers.

Thanks to their efforts in educating the maternity ward staff about breastfeeding, the birth center has now been given the silver Breastfeeding Friendly Washington award.

According to the website, Breastfeeding Friendly Washington (BFWA) is a part of the Washington State Department of Health that “encourages organizations to promote and support breastfeeding through changes in their policies and procedures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes that breastfed babies are at less risk for infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), chronic conditions and unhealthy weight.”

Learn more by searching for Breastfeeding Friendly Washington at www.doh.wa.gov.

“We’ve worked very hard for a long time,” said Tamara Leal, director of the birth center. “This is actually just one of the steps on our journey to Baby Friendly Washington.”

To earn the silver award, all maternity registered nursing staff completed 15 hours of breastfeeding training and at least five hours of clinical experience; at least 25 percent of all medical providers in the hospital completed three hours of breastfeeding training; and the clinic has met or is working toward Breastfeeding Friendly Washington’s 10 steps for birthing hospitals, which include having a written breastfeeding policy routinely communicated to all healthcare staff, informing all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding, establishing a system for referring mothers to out-patient and community support and more.

“(There are) three levels: bronze, silver and gold. These are stepping stones on our way to Baby Friendly USA,” Leal said.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a World Health Organization and UNICEF program that “assists hospitals in giving all mothers the information, confidence and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or safely feed with formula, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.” Read more at www.babyfriendlyusa.org.

“It’s important to have all that training and education … for the best outcomes for our community,” said Angela Haga, nurse manager.

“These moms and babies are so vulnerable. For the really short stays, they’re here, they’re exhausted. It’s really beneficial … to really be able to reassure them everything they’re experiencing is natural, everything they’re experiencing is normal.”

Haga added the purpose isn’t just to promote breastfeeding but to “support the choice of the mom and make them feel supported in whatever their choice is moving forward.”

Lactation Specialist Rebecca Kusche added, “Part of the education is that we’re trying to do best practices for the patient.

“Every mom that comes through leaves with a packet,” Kusche said. “In that packet, there’s a list of places they can get breastfeeding support once they’re home.”

About the silver award, Leal said, “It’s these types of programs that really inspire facilities like ours to identify opportunities for growth.”

“Overall,” she said, “CHI Franciscan is really building a healthier Kitsap community by improving and expanding access to innovative, high-quality services and programs. This is just one of the many things we do to improve the quality and the health of our communities and our new families.”

In 2017, Leal said 2,020 births took place at the Family Birth Center. According to Haga, they have a more than 80-percent breastfeeding rate on hospital discharge, “which is huge.”

The next step for the team will be to achieve the gold award, which they’re already close to applying for, Leal said. To qualify, there are higher training requirements, and they will have to implement each of the 10 steps for birthing hospitals.

For a list of pregnancy and childbirth resources available through Harrison Medical Center, visit www.chifranciscan.org/health-care-services/womens-care/pregnancy-and-child birth.

— Michelle Beahm is the online editor for the Kitsap News Group. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.