From holding your baby for the first time to bonding through breastfeeding, UC San Diego Health is committed to providing the highest quality of care and support for the best start to parenthood and life. Recently, Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla was recognized with the prestigious Baby-Friendly Designation for the services offered to our tiniest patients and their moms.
Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. is part of a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The initiative encourages and recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that are designed to optimize mother-baby bonding and to promote breastfeeding in the first few days of a baby’s life. The designation means UC San Diego Health provides education to enable families to make informed decisions and offers services, such as lactation support, throughout and beyond the hospital stay.
“We train all staff to help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth,” said Michelle Leff, MD, newborn hospitalist at UC San Diego Health. “As a physician, I see that our mothers have a much higher success rate initiating breastfeeding and continuing once discharged with efforts like skin-to-skin, support groups and pump rentals.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be breastfed without supplemental foods or liquids for the first six months of life. An analysis by the National Institutes of Health showed a 21 percent lower all-cause infant mortality rate and a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome in breastfed babies. Breastfeeding has also been shown to protect newborns against many diseases, including ear infections, bowel disorders and respiratory illnesses.
At UC San Diego Health, newborns stay in the hospital room with their mothers, lactation consultants offer personal instruction, techniques and positions with an extra level of assistance for special needs babies and skin-to-skin is promoted immediately after childbirth.
“Skin-to-skin not only promotes breastfeeding but also strengthens mother-baby bonding, decreases maternal anxiety and stabilizes the newborn’s body temperature, breathing and heart rate,” said Leff. “Cesarean section babies are also placed skin-to-skin with their mothers and do not go to the neonatal intensive care unit unless it is medically necessary.”
Leff adds that UC San Diego Health also purchases formula for infants who are not breastfed, have special medical conditions or need additional supplementation. “We support all feeding choices.”
If babies require care in the UC San Diego Health neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), mothers can breastfeed in the unit at the baby’s bedside. For those NICU babies too premature or otherwise unable to breastfeed, their mothers can pump breast milk for nurses to feed their babies.
“For premature babies, receiving breastmilk leads to less infections, less bowel complications, less hospitalization in the years after they go home and better neurodevelopment,” said Lisa Stellwagen, MD, pediatrician with UC San Diego Health. “The NICU at Jacobs Medical Center has private rooms and families are encouraged to visit every day for bonding and to collaborate with the medical team.”
UC San Diego Health also delays newborn bathing in order to increase breastfeeding and preserve the protective substance, called vernix, that helps protect against dryness and bacterial infections. Families also have the option for a delay in umbilical cord clamping, which allows for more blood transfer from the placenta to the baby.
The Baby-Friendly designation at Jacobs Medical Center is an expansion to the one given to UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest in 2006.
“We are extremely proud to have received this recognition for Jacobs Medical Center. It is another example of our dedication to the personal and compassionate care we provide our families during this exciting time in their lives,” said Patty Maysent, CEO, UC San Diego Health. “Our extraordinary staff works hard every day to make sure new parents not only have state-of-the-art resources but the confidence when their baby enters the world.”
There are more than 20,000 designated Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers worldwide. Currently, there are 511 active Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers in the United States. A designation is given after a rigorous on-site survey is completed.
“This effort was about two years in the making. It was made possible through an interdisciplinary effort and we are incredibly proud of the milestone for UC San Diego Health,” said Leff.
Approximately 3,000 babies are born at UC San Diego Health every year. Among the services offered are:
- From a traditional labor and delivery environment to the holistic experience of birthing rooms, from nurse-midwives and doulas to some of the nation’s top physicians and specialists, UC San Diego Health offers choices for all types of births.
- The UC San Diego Hearts and Hands Doula Program is the only volunteer doula program to provide cost-free doulas, or birth assistants, to any woman in labor who requests a doula for the duration of her labor.
- UC San Diego Health is the only hospital in San Diego with both a regional NICU and a labor and delivery service in the same facility. The NICU is a highly specialized, nationally recognized center of excellence providing the highest level of care for premature or ill infants.
- Board certified maternal-fetal medicine specialists, medical geneticists, genetic counselors, radiologists and other specialists provide prenatal and genetic counseling regarding amniocentesis and ultrasound findings to patients with high risk pregnancies.