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VENTURA, Calif. – The Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital have had their 'Baby Friendly' status renewed. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global initiative of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund. The initiative's goal is to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies through breastfeeding and immediate skin-to-skin bonding.

"We are proud to be the only hospitals in Ventura County, and two of only 315 hospitals in the country, to receive this status. Studies show many benefits to breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact," said VCMC chief executive officer Kim Milstien, "Both can help newborns maintain their temperatures better, normalize heart and breathing rates and even reduce their likeliness of crying." The hospitals first achieved Baby Friendly status in 2003; the renewal of this status is in place through 2020.

As Baby-Friendly hospitals, the Ventura County Medical Center and Santa Paula Hospital are staffed with lactation consultants who assist mothers in gaining the skills and confidence they need to breastfeed. The consultants start with prenatal appointments and are available once the baby arrives. In a further commitment to the Baby-Friendly designation, the hospitals also have lactation rooms so patients and visitors can have convenient and private places to breastfeed or pump.

Other important practices of Baby-Friendly hospitals include encouraging skin-to-skin contact between mothers and newborns and rooming in. Both practices encourage bonding and improve the newborn's ability to breastfeed. Steps to receiving the Baby-Friendly designation include:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  • Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice "rooming in," allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.