3 Bay Area hospitals join breastfeeding promo effort

August 1, 2012 6:34:23 PM PDT
Wednesday kicks off the start of World Breastfeeding Week and three hospitals in the Bay Area have joined a nationwide push to eliminate formula whenever possible.

Kaiser Permanente is aggressively trying to achieve a baby friendly designation at all of its hospitals. The policy strongly favors breastfeeding.

"We do not give formula to our babies unless it is medically indicated," said Bessy Wentz, R.N., a Kaiser Permanente nursing manager.

Health professionals say the medical benefits are overwhelming and the industry-wide push is not so much a move to ban formula as it is to educate woman.

"There's a whole subject -- what should be regulated and what should not be regulated, but certainly in a baby friendly hospital we want to give all the encouragement to the mom and facilitate breastfeeding and make it happen," said Cherie Tannenbaum, N.P., a Day One lactation consultant.

The baby friendly hospitals initiative is actually a global effort by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to promote breastfeeding.

Obtaining the official designation is tough.

The hospital must practice certain policies such as: promoting breastfeeding over formula, encouraging breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and whenever the baby is hungry. The hospital must also commit to keep mothers and infants in the same room and train all its staff to help implement the polices.

Only three Bay Area hospitals have actually achieved the baby friendly status: Kaiser in Hayward, San Francisco General and Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, but three new moms we spoke to at Day One in Palo Alto say they've noticed the trend.

"Where I gave birth, they had lactation consultants and I went to a breastfeeding class the day after my baby was born," said Kristina Keates, a mother.

Even hospitals with baby friendly designations say they will always respect the rights of their patients.

"If she wants to bottle feed, we will honor that, but we do encourage and support breastfeeding," said Wentz.

The new moms told us it's an important decision and one they're glad they made.


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