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Breastfeeding-friendly hospitals help create ‘Healthiest Next Generation’

Breastfeeding can give babies a healthy start in life.

Hospitals, say state health officials, can play an important role in helping mothers start and continue breastfeeding.

A new state program, “Breastfeeding Friendly Washington Hospitals,” recognizes hospitals that are taking steps to support breastfeeding.

“We know that babies are more likely to maintain a healthy weight throughout their lives if they breastfeed for at least six months,” said Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

“Hospitals that encourage and support breastfeeding are helping to raise the healthiest next generation.

“Expectant parents will soon have an easier time finding out how breastfeeding-friendly their local hospital is thanks to the Breastfeeding-Friendly Hospitals program,” Wiesman continud.

The program – a partnership between the Washington State Hospital Association and the state Department of Health – launched Aug. 3.

“Washington state hospitals and health systems have long supported breastfeeding as a way to help a new baby begin a healthy life,” said Cassie Sauer, Washington State Hospital Association.

“We supported the 2014 legislation that would have created the ‘Baby Friendly’ designation, and when it didn’t go through, we committed to working voluntarily to support the program,” Sauer said.

“Breastfeeding can be challenging, particularly at first. The information and support mothers and families receive in the hospital can be the difference in successful starts,” Sauer added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breastfeeding for nine months reduces a baby’s risk of becoming overweight and the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It also protects babies from illnesses such as diarrhea, ear infections, asthma and pneumonia.

Mothers who breastfeed also benefit through decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes and post-partum depression.

The “Breastfeeding-Friendly Washington Hospitals” project is a voluntary recognition program that will acknowledge participating hospitals that complete steps to support breastfeeding.

Hospitals that participate in the breastfeeding program will receive special decals to place in the facility’s windows to inform parents about their efforts. Facilities getting the gold recognition level will also receive a unique plaque.

Breastfeeding is a key element in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthiest Next Generation Initiative to make the next generation of Washington children the healthiest ever. The goal is to help children maintain a healthy weight, enjoy active lives and eat well in places where they spend the most time - including early learning settings, schools and their communities.

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