Jan 7, 2019

Congratulations to SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka, Alaska, the first Native hospital in Alaska to become Baby-Friendly designated! SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe was part of our American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) CHAMPS program from 2015-2018. The hospital is part of the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, a Native nonprofit health consortium that provides high-quality healthcare services for the residents of the Southeast Alaska region.

Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital performs approximately 80-100 births per year and serves Sitka as well as all of Southeast Alaska. Mothers from remote villages come to Sitka when they are 36 weeks pregnant and stay through delivery. SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital offers prenatal classes, education on breastfeeding, and education on Baby-Friendly via InJoy online. If the villages request, they are also able to offer classes remotely through Vidyo.

“We are very excited and happy to be the first Native hospital in the state of Alaska to have this designation,” share Susan Ward, RN, Manager of Labor Delivery and Diane Linn, RN, MSN, Nursing Education and Baby-Friendly Team Leader.

The Baby-Friendly journey at SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe began around three years ago, and they became officially designated in December 2018. Both Susan and Diane were involved from the beginning, eventually leading the project and seeing it through to completion. Susan and Diane say the greatest challenge was “getting everyone on the same page.” To accomplish this, they did a lot of education with both staff and patients. They changed their education plan several times until they had a workable process. They say the sweetest success is their breastfeeding rate, and that 98-100% of their mothers now want to breastfeed. They are currently in the process of tracking patients after they leave the facility, to follow their breastfeeding status at 2 weeks, 1 month, and 2 months. They are also developing a better breastfeeding support group for them.

“We have come together as a team to help patients be successful,” say Susan and Diane about the impact Baby-Friendly has made on maternity services at their hospital.

Susan and Diane would especially like to thank all the physicians, OB nursing staff, outpatient department staff and OB case manager Alycia Miller, RN, who helped make Baby-Friendly successful. They are also grateful to Martha Pearson, MA, MPA, Health Promotion Division Director, who was instrumental in getting the Baby-Friendly journey started.

What is their advice to other hospitals seeking to become Baby-Friendly?

“Have a good support from administration and physicians,” they say. “Have a good education process in place for staff and patients. Have a policy that is appropriate but not too complicated.”

Well done, SEARHC Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital! We are very excited for you!