HOUSTON (July 05, 2012)

Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center have been selected to participate in Best Fed Beginnings, a national initiative led by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to significantly improve breastfeeding rates in the U.S.

The program was created in an effort to ensure that all maternities, whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support. Joining 90 other hospitals selected from around the country, the two Memorial Hermann campuses will participate in a 22-month learning collaborative that will implement quality improved methods along with Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Upon completion of the program, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands will receive baby-friendly designation.

"We are delighted to be chosen to participate in this important effort and to enhance our maternity services through the Baby-Friendly designation process," said Susie Distefano, CEO of Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital. "We recognize that the hospital experience can strongly influence a mother's desire to initiate and continue breastfeeding and we are committed to ensuring that all mothers who deliver in our hospital are fully supported throughout the breastfeeding process."

The Lactation Centers at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands both provide full-service breastfeeding support to mothers and babies throughout the breastfeeding process beginning before delivery, after delivery and during the hospital stay and returning to work. Lactation consultants also provide support to mothers of infants in our neonatal intensive care units.

Although breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers, half of US-born babies are given formula within the first week, and by 9 months, only 31 percent of babies are breastfeeding at all. Best Fed Beginnings seeks to reverse these trends by dramatically increasing the number of US hospitals implementing a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother's choice to breastfeed. The National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) is leading the effort through a cooperative funding agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and will be working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.

"We look forward to working with Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands and congratulate them on their successful application," said Charlie Homer, MD, MPH, president and CEO of NICHQ. "The large number of applications we received affirms the commitment of hospitals across our country to be part of a health care system that truly focuses on promoting health for women and infants. We are especially pleased that we received so many applications from hospitals in states where there are so few facilities with Baby-Friendly designation and from hospitals that serve populations of women who now are much less likely to breastfeed."

Breastfeeding has multiple health benefits for both infants and mothers. For infants, it decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. It also decreases infants' risk of becoming obese later in childhood. For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.