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WV groups aim to increase breastfeeding rates

By Candace Nelson

Groups in West Virginia are working with labor and delivery nurses to increase the state's breastfeeding rate through new approaches designed to improve the initial connection between moms and their newborn babies.

Their efforts come just over a month after data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the state continues to lag behind the national average, even though more mothers are breastfeeding.

West Virginia has increased its initiation rate - the rate of mothers who begin breastfeeding at the time of birth - from about 53 percent in 2010 and 54.1 percent in 2011 but still lags about 16 points behind the national average.

The West Virginia Perinatal Partnership and the West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance are hosting new workshops, summits and other events to assist in promoting breastfeeding in the state.

The Perinatal Partnership, in coordination with the University of Louisville Center for Women and Infants, is presenting workshops for labor and delivery nurses at hospitals in West Virginia that focus on initiating skin-to-skin contact for newborns and their mother immediately after birth.

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, involves placing the newborn on the mother's chest as soon as possible after birth. During the contact, the baby can hear her heartbeat and voice and begin breastfeeding, said Amy Tolliver, executive director of the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership.

Several workshops for hospitals in West Virginia are planned to train staff from hospitals across the state.

"We're looking at many things to a comprehensive approach," said Christine Compton, co-founder and manager of West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance. "There are many different facts that need to be addressed in order to help rates to improve."

The West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance is continuing efforts to encourage 10 steps to successful breastfeeding with posters that were distributed to hospitals to display in maternity areas. The 10 steps include:

1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.

2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.

3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.

4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half hour of birth.

5. Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants.

6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.

7. Practice rooming-in - allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.

8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.

9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.

10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

Last week, 66 people attended West Virginia's first MotherBaby Summit, which brought leaders at maternity hospitals together to discuss mother-baby practices and breastfeeding support.

Representatives from Berkeley Medical Center, Bluefield Regional Medical Center, Cabell-Huntington Hospital, CAMC Women and Children's Hospital, Camden Clarke Medical Center, Davis Memorial Hospital, Logan Regional Medical Center, Monongalia General Hospital, Ohio Valley Medical Center, Raleigh General Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital of Buckhannon, St. Mary's Medical Center, Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, Summersville Memorial Hospital, Thomas Memorial Hospital, United Hospital Center, Weirton Medical Center and West Virginia University Hospitals participated.

The West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance is also continuing to offer training at hospitals and hopes to do more within the next six months. Training includes maternity practices, infant nutrition and care and lactation consultant training.

"As long as they're going upward, that's a measure of success," Compton said. 


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