St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond Heights has become the third hospital in the St. Louis area to earn the rigorous Baby-Friendly Hospital designation, which means the facility provides optimal care for mothers who want to breast-feed.
To earn the designation, the hospital must implement a long list of helpful practices such as keeping babies out of the nursery and in mothers’ rooms and no longer accepting free infant formula or marketing materials such as diaper bags from formula companies.
The hospital stay is critical in learning to breast-feed, yet some common hospital practices can interfere with success. The international Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is an effort to remove those barriers.
In 2007, only about 60 Baby-Friendly facilities were in the U.S. Last year, more than 25 percent of U.S. babies were born in the more than 500 Baby-Friendly facilities found in all 50 states, according to initiative’s website.
Ten years ago, a small rural hospital in Hannibal with just 700 births a year became the first Baby-Friendly hospital in Missouri. Other hospitals earning the designation since are: Fitzgibbon Hospital in Marshall, University of Missouri Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Columbia, Truman Medical Center in the Kansas City area, Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
In the Metro East, Alton Memorial Hospital was named Baby-Friendly in 2016.