Baby-Friendly Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is improving ‘startups’ for families

Tweet Share By Cameron Sullivan CORRESPONDENT 
No successful startup ever came about without research, analytics, hands-on innovation and education. It makes perfect sense, therefore, that Silicon Valley is home to internationally recognized programs that enable the success of the most vital startup there is – Family. Typical of Silicon Valley innovation, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) went far above and beyond expectations before its recent recognition as a Baby-Friendly birth facility. That’s because the healthcare providers at SCVMC know that every expectant mother and baby deserves a level of excellence that exceeds requirements. 
Although Baby-Friendly certification is based on implementing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding set forth by Baby Friendly USA, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), SCVMC’s Ready-Set- Baby program focuses on overall maternal and infant wellness. “The process of achieving Baby Friendly Certification began in 2013 when SCVMC received a two-year grant as part of a Center for Disease Control initiative for organizations to be more baby-friendly,” explained Sue Kehl, RN, SCVMC’s director of inpatient acute nursing. By then, SCVMC already added lactation consultants. “We also knew that being baby-friendly is not just about breastfeeding,” said Kehl. “It’s about providing prenatal education and promoting evidenced-based practices on the benefits of breastfeeding in maternal- infant bonding.” 
Following the CDC grant, SCVMC created a multi-disciplinary, baby- friendly task force of nurses, physicians and quality analysts. “In addition to our big Birth Center on Bascom, we standardized prenatal education and outreach across all 10 primary care clinics,” said Kehl. Complete obstetrics and gynecology care is offered at each of those clinics through SCVMC Ambulatory Care. Working cross-functionally, SCVMC’s prenatal, labor and delivery, maternity and pediatrics departments provide holistic care. The results are improved rates of breastfeeding, increased fetal weight at discharge and higher rates of vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Santa Clara Valley Medical Center has also been recognized twice in recent years by the State of California for exceeding the state’s low C-goals Section rate for first-time, low-risk deliveries. 
SCVMC Neonatologist and medical director of lactation, Sudha Rani Narasimhan, MD, explained that patient education about breastfeeding and mother-child bonding begins in obstetrics, but that pediatricians are key partners in facilitation. “More than 98 percent of our expectant moms breastfeed either exclusively or in combination with formula,” she added. “They believe in the benefits of breastmilk.” In a key outcome, exclusive breastfeeding while still in the hospital has increased from 30% at SCVMC a decade ago to 70% now. This number accounts for the well babies not including those in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “All babies in the NICU receive that first colostrum that’s so beneficial for gut health.” She added that SCVMC nurses, each of whom has completed extensive training on breastfeeding, do a great job initiating breastfeeding and skin-to- skin contact. 
Kehl is continually “blown away” whenever she meets a current maternity patient who also gave birth at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) before 2013. “It speaks so loudly when a mother who delivered a baby here before our push to become baby-friendly is amazed by the increase in the quality of care,” she said. “They say things like, ‘I love that I get so much support and education on breastfeeding’ or ‘my baby was never separate from me.’” They appreciate learning the importance of skin-to-skin contact and they notice the shared responsibility across obstetrics and pediatrics for both mother’s and baby’s wellbeing.
Making breastfeeding a joy, not a chore 
Kehl and Dr. Narasimhan both pointed out that SCVMC implemented the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as part of an overall continuum of care from early pregnancy through a year after birth. Knowing that an abundance of scientific evidence demonstrates improved health outcomes for both mothers and babies who breastfeed, they do so in a compassionate, resource-filled, informative environment that places no pressure on a mother. 
Within the immediate six- week postpartum period, babies are seen several times by pediatricians and pediatric nurses who following the progress of both mom and baby. These visits, along with communication between obstetrics and pediatrics when necessary, allow mothers to receive continual positive reinforcement. In addition to prenatal lactation education and frequent postpartum visits with lactation consultants, patients of SCVMC can attend free classes and support groups. Offered through SCVMC’s Ambulatory Health Education department, the classes include breastfeeding training, mother and newborn care, prenatal yoga, infant CPR and labor preparation. 
“Most importantly,” said Dr. Narasimhan, “we want families to know that we support each mother’s decision. We give them the education that they need prenatally, in the hospital and at home; we want them to have all the information and preparation to succeed at whatever they choose to do.” ​