Feb 3, 2020

Congratulations to AI/AN CHAMPS Hospital, Norton Sound Regional Hospital, on their Baby-Friendly designation. They received designation on December 13, 2019, four years after they joined the pathway. Norton Sound, located in Nome, Alaska, is a small facility with about 800-100 births per year.

“Being Baby-Friendly feels like a huge accomplishment!” expressed Carol Hobbs, CLC, and Health Educator at Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC).

Norton Sound began its process towards designation in 2016, although there had been conversations about pursuing designation for several years prior. “One of the biggest challenges was the high rate of trained staff turnover we experienced, but recently our staff census has been more stable making trainings easier to accomplish,” shares Carol. She further explained that they have experienced an increased number of moms choosing to breastfeed, thus reducing the need for formula on the L&D unit, since they began their Baby-Friendly journey. “The sweetest successes are when an expectant moms’ face lights up as she processes new information about breastfeeding or when a postpartum mom says, “Thank you for the breastfeeding support—I wish I would have known that with my first baby.”” Carol stated.

As a tribal hospital, NSHC serves primarily Alaska Native people who have practiced breastfeeding for millennia. Carol reported that achieving Baby-Friendly designation is a way of supporting moms and babies in a practice that has kept them healthy since time immemorial. “We were already doing many of the ten steps, but going through the process of becoming a Baby-Friendly hospital made us more aware of the details, like documenting baby’s movements out of the room, making sure there is a medical need for formula, or finding alternative ways to get colostrum into baby,” she shared.

Carol would like to thank staff members: Kelly Keyes Zweifel, RD, Stephanie Stang, RD, and Carol Hobbs, CLC; Anne Gollan, RN, IBCLC and Elizabeth Coler, RN, IBCLC; the wonderful team of OB RNs including Chelsea Hubert, RN and Kallie Hoogendorn, RN; and the supportive team of Family Practice physicians who deliver babies at NSHC.

Following their designation, the team plans to continue auditing the prenatal and postnatal care provided, in order to ensure compliance with Baby-Friendly standards. “We will continue to find new ways to provide education to our prenatal moms in a group setting. We hope to see moms breastfeeding for longer, and with more confidence” Carol stated.

Congratulations to Norton Sound Regional Hospital! Thank you for all your efforts to support Alaska Native mothers in breastfeeding.