Brookings Health System Designated Baby-Friendly Hospital

Posted: 10/26/2015

Established Breastfeeding Policies Benefit
Mothers and Babies

A team of physicians, OB, surgical and clinic nurses, lactation consultants and marketing professionals worked together to earn Brookings Health System’s Baby-Friendly Hospital designation. Back Row: Mandy Olson, Cindy Pejsa, Carol Bolstad, Deb Stover, Dr. Merritt Warren, Amy Koisti, Aleycia Gerlach. Second Row: Siri Boyd, Dr. Larissa Bennis, Marilyn Hildreth, Charlotte Bachman, Sara Klug, Mary Schwaegeral. Seated: Lois Tschetter, Dr. Richard Gudvangen, Dr. Sarah Smith, Dr. Andrew Ellsworth.Brookings Health System is the first non-Indian Health Services hospital in South Dakota to receive the Baby-Friendly® Hospital designation and the only one in a 180 mile radius, demonstrating the organization’s commitment to helping mothers successfully breastfeed their infants.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) program that encourages and recognizes hospitals that promote and support breastfeeding. This includes hospital policies, practices, and staff, physician, and community education. UNICEF, WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and many other national and international health agencies recommend mothers breastfeed babies exclusively for the first six months of life.

“Evidence-based research confirms breastfeeding results in the best health outcomes for both babies and mothers alike,” said Chief of Medical Staff Dr. Richard Gudvangen, OB-GYN at Avera Medical Group. “Babies are less likely to suffer from both childhood and adult diseases and mothers have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer.”

To achieve Baby-Friendly designation, Brookings Health System implemented policies following the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals and Birth Centers as outlined by UNICEF and WHO.

“The requirements to achieve Baby-Friendly designation are stringent,” said Obstetrics Director Mary Schwaegerl. “It requires planning and follow-through to implement the Baby-Friendly guidelines. The accrediting organization, Baby-Friendly USA, sets the bar high to ensure the best possible breastfeeding support and care quality for moms and babies.”

Since starting the path to become a Baby-Friendly Hospital in August 2013, Brookings Health System has provided breastfeeding education to community health care providers, collaborated with SDSU and the Chamber of Commerce in the Brookings Supports Breastfeeding project, and established New Beginnings Baby Café, a free, weekly drop-in breastfeeding support session for nursing and expecting mothers. In addition, staff consistently educate delivering mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, and rooming-in with their babies.

“Attaining the BFHI standards has definite costs, both in human and financial resources,” said Trish MacEnroe, executive director of Baby-Friendly USA, “yet the savings in terms of the quality of care provided, the resulting decrease in morbidity and mortality associated with optimal breastfeeding, and customer satisfaction are well worth the investment.”

Brookings Health System’s OB unit, New Beginnings Birth Center, has eight-beds with three labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum (LDRP) rooms and five postpartum recovery rooms. The unit provides full OB services to expectant parents and enables area residents to deliver their baby close to home with a local physician. To learn more about New Beginnings Birth Center, please visit

About Brookings Health System

Brookings Health System, located in Brookings, South Dakota, includes a 49-bed hospital, the 79-bed The Neighborhoods at Brookview nursing home, Brookhaven Estates senior living apartments, Yorkshire Eye Clinic, Arlington Medical Center, White Medical Clinic and Volga Medical Clinic. It is a non-profit, city-owned facility that offers the community a full range of inpatient, outpatient, surgical and extended care services. The emergency room is staffed 24 hours a day and provides around the clock patient needs ranging from minor injuries to life threatening crises. For more information about the services offered at Brookings Health System, please call (605) 696-9000 or visit us on the Web at