Brookings Health Seeks Baby-Friendly Status

Aug 6, 2013

Credit Kealey Bultena

A South Dakota health system is moving toward fulfilling the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Brookings Health System is in Phase 2 of the program from the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

To be baby-friendly according to the international standard, health organizations must complete 10 steps for successful breastfeeding. Those extend through hospital policies and practices, and they include education for staff, physicians and community members.

Avera Brookings Chief of Medical Staff, Doctor Richard Gudvangen, says moms lower their own health risks when they nurse. Those new moms also help their babies.

"Moms are kind of an interim protection for baby from birth till the time that baby’s immune system develops, and that’s where the breastfeeding comes in," Gudvangen says. "Mom gives baby a passive immunity to may of the illnesses, many of the things that we’re vaccinated for, and it allows baby to develop their immunity system without getting horrendously sick."

Gudvangen is an OBGYN; he has been practicing medicine for more than 25 years. The doctor says a whole generation of people was mislead into thinking formula-feeding babies was more healthful.

"It was promoted without having any actual scientific data behind it,so as a result of that, we’ve become very interventional and caused lots of problems," Gudvangen says. "So we’re stepping back some and helping mom but allowing the normal process to proceed."

Gudvangen says health providers should help mothers understand that evidence. He stresses that, despite the baby-friendly initiative that promotes breastfeeding, it’s mom’s decision whether to nurse her baby. He says staff should provide the best care based on that choice.