UMDNJ-The University Hospital earned the study’s highest standardized score for 2009 – 1.87 – a ratio measuring how the hospital’s rate of mothers breastfeeding exclusively 24 hours prior to discharge compares to expectations for continued breastfeeding based on demographic and medical characteristics of the patient population. A score of 1.0 indicates an “average” performance compared to the population expectation.
The study notes that the high standardization rate achieved at UMDNJ-The University Hospital for 2009 followed a successful two-year effort that sharply improved breastfeeding rates there.
While the study found that the percentage of infants in New Jersey hospitals exclusively breastfeeding prior to discharge decreased from 42% in 1997 to 35% in 2009, infants at UMDNJ-The University Hospital exclusively breastfeeding increased from 5% in 2007 to 38% in 2009.
“The choice to breastfeed is personal,” the study authors state, “but that choice can either be supported or undermined by what happens in the hospital in the first few days after delivery. The implementation of hospital policies that specifically support breastfeeding have been documented by research to dramatically increase exclusive breastfeeding rates and improve the health of mothers and infants after discharge.”
In 2008, UMDNJ-The University Hospital’s breastfeeding policy was revised under the leadership of Elizabeth Barry, D.N.P., M.S.N., R.N.-BC, lactation consultant / education specialist, to include:
- an emphasis on mother and baby rooming-in and mother breastfeeding on demand. Ongoing in-services include communicating the revised policy to staff.
- communicating breastfeeding information to patients in the OB clinic at their first visit and throughout their pregnancy.
- collaboration with physicians and outside organizations to enhance the education of new residents, staff and patients.
- providing written information about breastfeeding in English, Spanish and French and videos in English and Spanish. At discharge, breastfeeding moms are given telephone numbers of breastfeeding counselors instead of gift bags filled with formula (as had been the previous practice).
Elizabeth Barry said that the hospital is proud to be recognized for its successful efforts in the breastfeeding program. “These improvements, however, go beyond improved statistics, as mothers and children now have greater exposure to more of the benefits of breastfeeding,” she said.
The study notes the importance of practices within hospitals. “Hospital staff and practices play an under-appreciated role in supporting or hindering breastfeeding, despite the belief that the decision lies strictly with the mother,” the report states. “Because almost all babies are born in the hospital, there is a clear opportunity for hospital personnel to promote the initiation of breastfeeding.”
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation’s largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 6,000 students attending the state’s three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, which provides a continuum of healthcare services with multiple locations throughout the state.