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Via Christi Hospital St. Joseph named a High 5 for Mom & Baby hospital

High 5 for Mom & Baby

Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph in Wichita is now a High 5 for Mom & Baby-recognized hospital, having integrated specific maternity-care procedures based on the proven health benefits associated with breastfeeding and other key elements of bonding between mother and newborn.

The High 5 program — initiated, funded, and provided at no charge to Kansas hospitals by the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund — is founded on key hospital practices crucial for a successful breastfeeding experience. High 5 for Mom & Baby was developed by the Hutchinson-based Health Fund in conjunction with the Kansas Breastfeeding Workgroup. 

High 5 Program Coordinator, Gwen Whittit, RN, IBCLC, made the award presentation during a recent Via Christi Family Medicine Committee meeting.

“Via Christi has long been a leader in its support for breastfeeding,” says Amy Ellington, who leads the Via Christi NewLife Center lactation program, which provides breastfeeding education and support to mothers and their infants before, during and following their hospital stay and established the city’s first walk-in breastfeeding clinic, human milk bank and having standing orders in place for all delivering mothers to have a lactation consult. “The High 5 for Mom & Baby program helped us identify areas where we could further integrate others’ best practices into our program as well as areas where we not only were meeting the standards but exceeding them.”

The five best practices comprising the High 5 for Mom & Baby standards are:

  • Assuring immediate, sustained skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth
  • Giving newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated
  • Allowing “rooming in” so mothers and infants can remain together 24 hours a day
  • Not giving pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants
  • Providing mothers options for breastfeeding support in the community

Jan Kabler, the advanced registered nurse practitioner who serves as the clinical nurse specialist for the NewLife Center, and lactation consultant Megan Bayer were among the leaders who worked to help ensure adherence to the standards of breastfeeding practices established for the High 5 program.

At the outset of the process, Whittit conducted on-site education classes at the hospital attended by 146 staff and interested community members.

In emphasizing the value of this program to the hospital and its maternity patients, Whittit said that research indicates a link between not breastfeeding and increased health risks for a baby including high blood pressure, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, asthma, ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Studies also show a definite correlation to childhood and adolescent obesity for those who were not breastfed. Mothers also derive health benefits, said Whittit, noting that those who breastfeed have a decreased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.