BY JORDAN GIBBONS
For the last seven years, Queens Hospital Center has been changing its practices of postnatal care to provide an environment where breastfeeding is not only advised, but encouraged.
This spring, their work paid off when they became the first Queens Hospital to be named a Baby-Friendly Designated Hospital by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund. This international designation recognizes hospitals with maternity facilities that offer the highest levels of breastfeeding education and support and provide an environment that fosters and encourages maternal-infant bonding.
Dr. Marcy Stein Albert, director of pediatrics, said that people have been practicing one way of caring for a child for 60 to 70 years and they are trying to show the community that is not the way it is supposed to be. She said hospitals and nurses have also been preventing children from bonding with their mothers immediately after childbirth as well.
“It’s really a culture change that evolves over time,” she said. “It’s a very robust outreach that has to happen. Now that we have the designation, we’re breaking out into the community. We want to make Queens a baby friendly borough.”
Stein Albert said that it begins once the child is born. Immediately after birth, they make sure the mother and the baby experience skin-to-skin contact on the mother’s chest for at least an hour or two until the baby has fed from the mother’s chest.
As part of the community outreach, QHC hosted a dinner and movie screening Tuesday evening with patients and local breastfeeding advocates. The movie was a 90-minute documentary about the benefits of breastfeeding, titled “The Milky Way: Every Mother Has a Story.”
QHC also has a La Leche League on site, which offers breastfeeding support from trained volunteers, through meetings and phone and email support. The meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month from 5 to 7:30 p.m.
Most. Fahmeda Khatun of Jamaica attended a meeting and said she decided to change her feeding habits after her daughter, Farhana Ahamed, was born.
“I learned that after six months of breastfeeding, it prevents problems like diabetes and ear infections,” Khatun said. “I’ve never used one drop of formula with her.”
Zenaida Magnaye-Bazon, associate executive director for women’s and children services, said that breastfeeding can prevent asthma, allergies, ear infections, diabetes and reduce a child’s chance for obesity.
She also said the hospital does not accept any gifts from formula companies, which is part of the designation requirements. The hospital purchases all of its formula, and that it is only used if there are medical reasons or a mother chooses to use it.
Diana Vuentos, a lactation counselor at QHC, said it is very important to get fathers involved in the process too, so there is a team effort.
“Once they observe and see how they can do it, it becomes second nature to them,” she said. “Once you show them concrete evidence on why it is important, the dad understands.”
Gemarla Gaskin of Jamaica attended the dinner and movie screening after seeing it on the La Leche League’s Facebook page. Gaskin writes a blog, www.themommyelf.com, that provides parenting advice. She said she has been breastfeeding her children for the last four years.
“I came today because events like these need to have people come so they have them more often,” she said. “It’s important for the breastfeeding community to have these.”
Reach Jordan Gibbons at (718)357-7400 Ext. 123, firstname.lastname@example.org or @jgibbons2.