Danbury Hospital Breast Feeding Success Rate Reaches Astounding 97 Percent
Danbury Hospital has reached another milestone: In January, 97 percent of new mothers who delivered at the hospital were discharged nursing their infants, the highest figure of any hospital in the state.
“Considering the fact that the goal of Healthy People 2010 (a national health program) breast feeding initiative is 75 percent, that figure is amazing,” said neonatologist Eitan Kilchevsky, MD, medical director for Danbury Hospital’s Center for Breastfeeding. “It’s certainly one of the highest in the nation.”
Breastfeeding Program Surpasses National Benchmark
The hospital’s breast-feeding program had already reached great heights. In October 2009, 96 percent of new mothers were discharged home nursing their newborn infants. In November 2009, Danbury Hospital showed a 90 percent success rate and in December 2009, 88 percent of mothers left the hospital breastfeeding their infants.
The hospital keeps monthly breast-feeding records of the approximately 2,500 births a year. In Connecticut, the average hospital success rate hovers around 75 percent.
“Our breast feeding initiative is among the best in the nation and is still a well-kept secret,” Kilchevsky said.
Kilchevsky credits the collaborative efforts of Danbury Hospital personnel including lactation specialist Kathleen Moonan and her staff with much of the success of the program. Mothers begin breastfeeding within an hour of birth. The team works with the mothers to solve any problems.
Health Benefits of Breast-Feeding for Children
Kilchevsky and Moonan enumerated the many benefits of breast feeding, including reduced risk of childhood obesity, a growing problem in the United States.
“Some breast-fed babies look chubby as babies but they end up healthier,” Kilchevsky said. “Statistics show they are less prone to be overweight.”
“A breast-fed baby never overeats,” added Moonan. “They lean out when they start walking,”
Babies on breast milk also develop fewer ear infections, have less diarrhea and intestinal problems, less allergies and asthma and receive immunity from their mothers. There is growing evidence that breast-fed babies have higher IQs and do better in school and have less behavioral problems. Breast milk can also lower the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, a particular benefit for mothers who smoke as smoking increases the chances of SIDS, Kilchevsky said.
Health Benefits of Breast-Feeding for Moms
And the benefits don’t just affect the baby, Moonan said. Women who breast feed lose baby fat sooner and have decreased rates of breast and ovarian cancers and a lower risk of osteoporosis.
“It’s also free and more convenient,” Moonan said. “I tell the patients, ‘it’s all green!’- no plastic or waste.”
But how did Danbury Hospital reach this astounding statistic? Kilchevsky cites collaboration among hospital personnel that starts in the womb with an expectant mother’s obstetrician.
“It starts prenatally,” said Kilchevsky, who has more than 20 years experience in clinical and academic newborn medicine and pediatrics. “We have good people at the hospital championing the cause.”
Education Help Mothers Feel Comfortable With Breastfeeding
The education of new mothers continues with the labor and maternity and nursery nurses and Moonan’s lactation specialists who make sure mothers are comfortable with breastfeeding. Formula is used if for some reason it is medically necessary, Moonan said. But breast milk is clearly superior as it changes according to the needs and age of the baby to provide the best benefits and of course formula does not.
Kilchevsky said January’s 97 percent success rate is a benchmark. The hospital will now direct its efforts to increase the amount of time mothers breast feed after they leave the hospital to the 12 months recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP says mothers should introduce solid foods beginning at about six months.
“The most important thing is for mothers to be advocates for themselves and for their babies,” Kilchevsky said. “It is the mothers’ choice. If they need support, our resources are available from the community lactation specialists. If mothers want to stop breast feeding, it’s their choice but at the same time we would not like mothers stop breast feeding because they are having problems as we may have the solution.”
“Our resources are always available,” said Moonan, whose department makes hundreds of telephone calls a month to mothers. A board-certified lactation specialist who has been at the hospital 10 years, Moonan is working to collect data on following mothers’ breast feeding activities after they leave the hospital.
“I can always do better; we can always make an experience better for somebody,” Moonan said.
About Danbury Hospital
Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with the University of Vermont College of Medicine, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders, radiology and diagnostic imaging. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board-certified in their specialties, and most serve on the faculty of the nation’s finest medical centers offering a higher level of experience.
Danbury Hospital Women's and Children's Services is committed to the unique health needs of women and children. With a program nationally ranked in the Top 5% for excellence in Women's Health, Danbury Hospital is one of two hospitals in the state with a Level IIIb Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) that include highly-skilled nursing staff, neonatologists and the most technologically advanced equipment that offers a higher level of special care and treatment to newborns and reassurance to the women and their families of our region.