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Meridian Park earns Baby-Friendly designation

Legacy announces four of its hospitals earned certification, which sponsored by WHO and UNICEF

TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Delivery Nurse Jeni Fitzpatrick visits with Kennebec Vial and her newborn, Levi Winslow at the Family Birth Center at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center. Last week, the hospital received a Baby-Friendly designation.For Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center and the other three Legacy hospitals that recently received Baby-Friendly birth facility designations, the honor meant a return to basics. It meant changing some of the practices that birth centers had been developing for decades, and rebuilding the foundation.

Aside from the Legacy hospitals, only three other birth centers in the state had earned this designation as of July, and only 286 had been deemed Baby-Friendly nationwide. As Baby-Friendly hospitals, they promote breastfeeding and encourage mother/baby bonding by helping newborns breastfeed within the first hour, keeping newborns with mothers rather than in a nursery, avoiding pacifier use and not sending mothers home with free formula.

With so many changes, the process began four years ago, said Rachel Gardetto, nurse educator for the family birth center at Meridian Park. Slowly, new practices were introduced and implemented until the Baby-Friendly criteria were reached. Along with Meridian Park, Legacy Good Samaritan, Legacy Emanuel and Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Centers have been recognized by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund as Baby-Friendly facilities, with Mount Hood Medical Center’s designation expected this fall. TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Delivery Nurse Jeni Fitzpatrick listens to the heartbeat of baby Levi Vial as mom, Kennebec, watches on at the Family Birth Center at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center several months ago.

“It’s funny, because a lot of what Baby-Friendly is, it seems like we should have been doing it all along, and it’s kind of going back to the basics,” said Gardetto. “But we were so used to doing things in a different manner that we had to change our workflow, and it was kind of a long process getting everybody switched into that mode.”

One of the biggest changes was applying a skin-to-skin method to the baby and mother immediately following birth. Rather than whisking the newborn away to the warmer or weighing it, they clean the baby off then hand it directly back to the mother. Doing so promotes breastfeeding and also helps the baby regulate body temperature and blood sugar.

“Not only are we not going to take the baby down to the nursery, we’re not even going to take the baby off of mom. Baby is going to stay right on mom — unless there’s a problem — for the first hour or two,” said Gardetto. “Having the baby skin-to-skin, it seems like such a benign thing, but it actually accomplishes so much.”

Another big change came with breastfeeding, and educating parents on the importance of using it over formula. Whereas in the past, staff let parents decide on their own, now the focus is on providing as much information as possible, then letting the parents choose what’s best for their family.

According to a statement released by Legacy, there are nutritional, health and psychological benefits of breastfeeding for babies, including: decreased risk developing asthma or allergies, type 2 diabetes, ear infections, respiratory illnesses, bouts of diarrhea, and becoming overweight or obese.

“Our goal is health promotion,” said Gardetto. “I think that breastfeeding just lends itself to healthier children, healthier communities.”

While birth centers have come a long way from the nursery days of decades past, many are still working toward becoming as helpful and healthy as possible for new families. With its Baby-Friendly designation, Meridian Park is one step closer to continuing on this path.