SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. -- Phelps Hospital has always been known as a great place to have a baby. Now, as the hospital joins the ranks of internationally recognized "Baby-Friendly Hospitals," mothers and their newborns have access to the best in maternal care.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program created by the World Health Organization, designed to recognize hospitals that offer new mothers the information, confidence and skills they need to succeed in breastfeeding and caring for their infants.
"What we found in America is that about 80 percent of pregnant women want to breastfeed their children," said Yeva Posner, the lactation program coordinator at Phelps Hospital. "However, when discharged, only about 40 percent of mothers actually do exclusively breastfeed. We wanted to know what happens in the two days at the hospital that prevents mothers from reaching their goal." It turns out, keeping baby and mother together is key.
"Mother and baby used to be separated at birth," said Posner. "The mom would recover in the room and the newborn would stay in the nursery, making it harder for them to naturally experience bonding." During this separation, babies were often formula fed so mothers could get some rest. Now we know that these first days in the hospital are crucial for developing a mother-child bond. “Studies show that the initial hospital experience strongly influences parents’ ability to successfully bond with their infant, understand the newborn’s needs and initiate breastfeeding,” said Posner.
Becoming a Baby-Friendly Hospital isn’t an easy task. According to Posner, most nurses and staff grew up in an era of formula feeding rather than breastfeeding, so they needed to undergo extensive retraining. "It took Phelps four years to become designated,” she said. "The process included turning everything upside down. We created new policies and procedures, patient education, prenatal and post-discharge support. We restructured our maternity unit to accommodate rooming-in, where baby stays with his parents and receives all the care needed without leaving mother’s sight. That required different nursing work flow, electronic documentation, equipment and even lighting.” Phelps is one of just 409 Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing centers in the United States, and the 16th in New York State.
“We are committed to ensuring that all those who deliver at Phelps Hospital are offered the best care, education and support needed to give their babies a healthy start in life,” said Posner. For mothers-to-be in Westchester County and beyond, the gold standard of maternity care can be found right here at Phelps. For more information about maternity care at Phelps Hospital, call 914-366-3382 or click here.