Breastfeeding program receives $1.2M grant

St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit has received a $1.2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation The funds will be used to implement the St. John Mother Nurture Project, a comprehensive breastfeeding program providing direct health services and community based programming, along with the development of best practices and a "Baby Friendly" designation for St. John Hospital. The grant period runs from now through July 2014.

"The St. John Mother Nurture Project will strengthen comprehensive breastfeeding program and allow us to partner with other community organizations," said Paula Schreck, MD, medical director, breastfeeding medicine, St. John Hospital. "This widespread conversation about breastfeeding will increase breastfeeding initiation and continuation, and hopefully become a model for other communities in our city, state, and beyond."

According to Schreck and the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is the first, best preventative medicine, decreasing the incidence of infection, asthma, cancer, and obesity in children. Breastfeeding also decreases postpartum depression, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer in mothers. However, only 65% of women in Michigan begin breastfeeding, and at three months post-birth, those rates have dropped to less than 25%. The situation is even more dire in the city of Detroit, where more than half of women never try to breastfeed. Several cultural misconceptions exist about breastfeeding, coupled with a generational lack of knowledge on the importance of breastfeeding.

"What we're trying to do is change widespread community perception about breastfeeding," said Schreck. "Especially in the African American community, there are cultural barriers to breastfeeding, coupled with a less-than-optimal knowledge base about the benefits of breastfeeding."

Hospital leaders believe the grant will change that problem. The St. John Mother Nurture Project of the following initiatives:

St. John OB Clinic: Lactation consultants will provide counseling and pro-breastfeeding support in the St. John OB Clinic for eight hours each week.

St. John Mother Nurture Club: The hospital will create and sponsor a weekly post-delivery breastfeeding support group using the breastfeeding peer counselor model.

NICU Follow-up Clinic: All NICU graduates receiving human milk will be seen in follow-up in the grant-sponsored NICU Breastfeeding Follow-up Clinic. NICU lactation coverage in the NICU will be expanded to five days a week.

Baby-Friendly Initiative: The hospital will proceed with "Baby-Friendly" accreditation, an accreditation from WHO and UNICEF for hospitals that accomplish 10 initiatives that optimize a pro-breastfeeding patient/staff environment. Baby Friendly initiative focuses on education for doctors, nurses, and patients relative to breastfeeding. It helps everyone focus on supporting human milk as the optimal nutrition for infants. According to St. John, there are no hospitals in Michigan that have achieved the Baby Friendly Designation, which supports the Surgeon General's January 2011 Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.

Community Collaboration: The project will collaborate with the Urban League of Detroit/WIC, Infant Mortality Project, The Parish Nurses program, and CareLink to deliver a consistent pro-breastfeeding message to the community and a seamless referral network.