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N.C. Public Health Recognizes Six N.C. Maternity Centers With Breastfeeding-Friendly Awards

For release: Immediate    September 6, 2011
Contact: Julie Henry 919-707-5053

RALEIGH – State Health Director Jeff Engel has announced the first recipients of the North Carolina Maternity Center Breastfeeding-Friendly Designation. Six hospitals across the state have been recognized for their efforts to adopt the selected policies and practices from the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding that support the initiation, exclusivity and continuation of breastfeeding.

Mission Hospital in Asheville is the first hospital in N.C. to receive the full five-star Breastfeeding-Friendly designation, which is awarded when a maternity center implements all 10 steps. Maternity centers (hospitals/birthing centers) receive a star for every two steps implemented. Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson received four stars and Gaston Memorial Hospital in Gastonia received three stars. Two star designations were given to Ashe Memorial Hospital in Jefferson, Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard, and The Women’s Hospital in Greensboro. The designation period is for three years, but maternity centers may reapply for a higher designation at any time.

“We are proud to recognize the commitment these maternity centers have shown to helping babies and mothers get off to a healthy start,” Dr. Engel said. “The health benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented, from lower rates of childhood obesity to reducing cancer risk in moms who breastfeed.”

The Breastfeeding-Friendly designation is part of a statewide effort to create a climate where nursing mothers are supported in their choice to breastfeed their children. Beginning in July 2010, state policy requires all government agencies to provide space, privacy and time for nursing mothers to express breast milk.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as defined by the World Health Organization and Baby Friendly USA are:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff;
  2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy;
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding;
  4. Help all mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth;
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants;
  6. Give newborns no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated;
  7. Practice rooming-in to allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours per day;
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand;
  9. Foster the establishment of breast-feeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

The North Carolina Maternity Center Breastfeeding-Friendly Hospital Designation is endorsed by the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force and the North Carolina Hospital Association. The designation is completely voluntary and there is no cost for applying. Applications for the designation are reviewed on a quarterly basis.

Designation as a Breastfeeding-Friendly Hospital is intended to provide recognition for maternity centers’ accomplishments and to provide momentum for improvement. Maternity Centers are encouraged to continue to implement best practices to achieve all Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The Division of Public Health welcomes applications from other N.C. maternity centers who have implemented some or all of the 10 steps in their facilities. Webinars on the NC MCBD are held each quarter. For information, visit

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