Congratulations to Austin Medical Center, the first Minnesota hospital to receive Baby-Friendly Hospital designation by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Photo:  Austin Medical Center staff proudly display their Baby-Friendly Hospital certificate.  Left to right:  Chief Nursing Officer Diane Twedell, DNP, RN; Medical Director John Coppes, MD; Candace Hample, RN IBCLC; Julie Smith, RN; and Julie McColloch, RN.

Austin Medical Center Receives Prestigious International Award for Achieving Baby-Friendly Designation—the First Medical Center in Minnesota

More than one million infants worldwide die every year because they are not breastfed or are given other foods too early. Although the majority of these deaths happen in underdeveloped nations, thousands of infants in the U.S. suffer the ill effects of poor nutrition, such as increased risk of respiratory and ear infections, and allergic skin disorders.

Austin Medical Center is committed to providing an optimal level of care for newborns to decrease the effects of poor nutrition. And in recognition of this, the Women’s Special Care Unit at Austin Medical Center was recently designated the first Baby-Friendly health care facility in Minnesota.

So what is a Baby-Friendly health care facility? 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 infants. The BFHI assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have earned their Baby-Friendly designation.

Only 104 health care facilities in the U.S. have earned this designation and many others are currently in the process. Nancy Hoversten, Women’s Special Care Unit nurse manager at AMC says the Baby-Friendly designation is truly one to celebrate.

“We have been working very hard for several years to ensure our practices are aligned with this initiative,” says Hoversten. “Being a Baby-Friendly site really means we are providing the essential education needed for all patients whether they breast feed or formula feed, to be able to care for their newborn properly when they leave the hospital. It’s really best practice care right here in Austin.”

The Baby-Friendly designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey where interviews of patients, nurses and physicians are conducted over a two-day period to ensure that the unit has adopted new practices and policies that lead to improved health outcomes for all newborns.

Candace Hample, a registered nurse certified by the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) at AMC, adds that education is the key to being a Baby-Friendly environment. “All of our nurses in our Women’s Special Care Unit and physicians who care for newborns are required to complete a breastfeeding competency course,” she says. “We provide education to our patients beginning at 32 weeks pre-delivery and going through post-partum. Our patients love it as they feel like they are much more involved in the care of their newborn. Gone are the days when care to the newborn was done only in the nursery. Now all care is done right at the bedside in the patient’s room involving all care givers and the parents.”

John Coppes, M.D, OB/GYN physician and medical director at AMC, says the designation truly is wonderful. “To be the first Baby-Friendly designated health care facility in Minnesota speaks loud and clear that our health care team is serious about providing the best care possible in the Women’s Special Care Unit,” says Dr. Coppes. “The benefits of breastfeeding could translate into millions of dollars of savings to our health care system through decreased hospitalizations and pediatric clinic visits. At AMC, over 80% of women breastfeed their newborns, which is higher than the national average of 75%.”

Designations last for five years and at the end of that five year period, facilities are reassessed in order to retain their Baby-Friendly designation. However, in order to assure that facilities are maintaining the high standard of care that the Baby-Friendly designation represents, they must undertake annual quality assurance and improvement projects assigned by Baby-Friendly USA.

For more information on the Baby-Friendly initiative, go to the BFHI web site at

AMC practices that support mother/baby care include:

  • 24-hour rooming in of infants — newborns stays in the patient room at all times so weighing, measuring, bathing, any medications administered, and all other infant care provided by a nurse or physician is done at the patient’s bedside.
  • Lactation consultant and lactation educator on staff — meets with patients to provide breastfeeding education and support, before the birth, following the birth, and as needed after discharge.
  • Invitations sent to all patients at 32 weeks to visit the Women’s Special Care Unit — all patients receive a special invitation to visit the unit so they will know what to expect when they deliver.
  • Skin-to-skin contact of babies with mothers/fathers — once the newborn is delivered they are immediately placed on the mother’s chest, which helps stabilize the infants more quickly (if the newborn is delivered by cesarean section, the father often provides the skin-to-skin contact until the mother returns from surgery).
  • Education provided to all staff and patients — all staff are required to complete online education and all patients receive education on delivery, breastfeeding, and pre and post-partum issues.
  • Adhere to the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding — promote and support the ten steps as outlined by BFHI including:

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 hour of birth.
5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
7. Practice “rooming in” to 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 at the time of discharge from the hospital.

  • All infant products including formula, nipples, wipes, diapers and others as needed are purchased by AMC to ensure that there is no product promotion by outside vendors or companies