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West Virginia Celebrates 5
Baby Friendly Designated Hospitals

Hospital and birth center practices significantly affect whether a woman chooses to start breastfeeding and how long she continues to breastfeed. Several specific policies and practices, in combination, determine how much overall support for breastfeeding a mother giving birth in a particular hospital or birth center is likely to receive. The recommended elements of care for lactating mothers and their babies are those that are required for a hospital or birth center to be designated as “Baby-Friendly.” 


While all women benefit from delivering at a Baby-Friendly Facility, rural WV with its lower rates of breastfeeding may benefit more because of the state’s population of lower income families in disadvantaged communities, high preterm birth rate, high teenage pregnancy rate, and percentage of women with a lower level of education.


The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for lactation based on the WHO/UNICEF Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals. In the United States, the nonprofit organization Baby-Friendly USA oversees this program. To be designated as “Baby-Friendly,” facilities undergo external evaluation to demonstrate that the facility meets all ten of the recommended elements of care. All types and sizes of birth facilities can seek the Baby-Friendly designation. Some states have several small Baby-Friendly facilities, others have only one or two large Baby-Friendly facilities, and still others have none at all. Because birth facilities vary in size and the number of annual births, measuring the effect of their maternity care and practices on public health requires more than just counting the number of Baby-Friendly facilities per state. Thus, the public health impact is assessed by using the proportion of annual live births in the U.S. that occurred at facilities that have earned the Baby-Friendly designation.


The Healthy People 2020 objective “Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies”, had a target goal of  8.1%.  West Virginia went from 0% for this objective on the 2016 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card to 26.1% in 2018.


MonHealth Medical Center in Morgantown became the first WV hospital to be designated Baby Friendly in May of 2017.  With its designation, the U.S. reached a milestone having at least one Baby Friendly facility in all 50 states!  

Other West Virginia Hospitals which are Baby Friendly Designated include:


St Mary’s Medical Center, Huntington WV (April 2018) 


WVU Medicine Berkeley Medical Center, Martinsburg WV (January 2019)


United Hospital Center, Bridgeport WV (October 2019)


Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Weston WV (December 2019)

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