Newswise — (CHICAGO) - Rush University Medical Center has earned a “Baby-Friendly" designation from the accrediting body that certifies whether a hospital adheres to a rigorous series of evidence-based practices shown to increase breastfeeding.

Only 409 hospital— and just two academic medical centers in Illinois — have earned this certification from Baby-Friendly USA, Inc., the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, which certify whether an organization adheres to Baby-Friendly USA's "Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding."

“This designation tells expectant mothers that we have created an environment at Rush that focuses on breastfeeding while respecting mothers’ and families’ choices,” said Diane Gallagher, DNP, associate vice president, Women’s and Children’s Nursing. “The dedicated nurses and physicians who changed practice, educated staff and patients and tirelessly supported women in their effort to successfully breastfeed their babies made us successful in our long journey. It is a great achievement for Rush.”

Gallagher stressed that Rush does not compel mothers to attempt to breastfeed. “We are giving families complete and correct information to support women who choose to breastfeed and help increase their chances to successfully achieve this goal. This is a wonderful accomplishment for Rush and the families we serve.”

What is Baby-Friendly? The “Baby-Friendly" designation culminates a multiyear effort of redesigning workflows, training and facilities to provide maternity care that delivers optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding. Clinical research, including many Rush-led studies, suggests that breastfeeding, especially soon after a child is born, can positively impact a child’s development. Gallagher added that a specific goal of achieving Baby-Friendly Designated birth facility designation “was to remove the barriers that come up in hospitals related to our workflow that do not always keep mom and baby together.”

Representatives from Baby-Friendly USA conducted a series of onsite audits, and more than 1,500 Rush staff members took the non-mandatory educational training. To plan and execute this initiative, Rush also worked with the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children, a group of public health agencies and institutions that work to prevent childhood obesity.

"The designation of Rush University Medical Center as a Baby-Friendly Hospital is an achievement to be celebrated,” said Dr. Adam Becker, executive director of the consortium. “Breastfeeding from the earliest opportunity and sustained over time has been shown in several studies to have a positive impact on a child’s growth trajectory and thus many of our nation’s health experts consider it to be an important component of obesity prevention.”