Brookings Health System to Pursue WHO and UNICEF’s Baby-Friendly Designation

Posted: 8/5/2013

Goal is to Improve Breastfeeding Outcomes and Best Health Results for Babies and Mothers

Brookings Health System is pursuing a Baby-Friendly accreditation from the WHO and UNICEF. Holding the Registry of Intent certificate indicating the organization has completed Phase 1, Discovery, of accreditation are Dr. Richard Gudvangen and OB Director Mary Schwaegerl. With them are physicians, from right to left, Dr. Rebecca VandeKop, Dr. Ellen Hopper, Dr. Andrew Ellsworth and Dr. Shelby Eischens.Brookings Health System announced today the organization has completed Phase 1, Discovery, of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and has begun the process for Phase 2, Development. No other non-Indian Health Services hospital in the state currently has reached the Baby-Friendly Development phase.

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 shows breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from serious illnesses, including asthma, eczema and respiratory and ear infections,” said Brookings Health System’s Chief of Medical Staff Dr. Richard Gudvangen, OBGYN at Avera Medical Group-Brookings. “Adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to develop risk factors for heart disease such as obesity and high blood pressure. New studies also indicate breastfed babies have higher IQs. Mothers benefit from breastfeeding, too. Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures later in life. Brookings Health System’s commitment to the Baby-Friendly Hospitals Initiative encourages the best health outcomes for babies and mothers alike.”

Criteria for Baby-Friendly accreditation include implementing policies following the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals and Birth Centers as outlined by UNICEF and WHO.

“Research shows that hospital policies specifically designed to support breastfeeding can dramatically increase exclusive breastfeeding rates,” said Chief Nursing Officer Tammy Hillestad. “Brookings Health System sees this as an opportunity to implement practices in labor, delivery, postpartum care and discharge planning to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and improve the success rate among women who want to breastfeed.”

To earn the Baby-Friendly accreditation, an organization must complete four phases: Discovery, where an organization submits registration; Development, where an organization plans how it will achieve the Baby-Friendly guidelines; Dissemination, where an organization implement the plan; and Designation, where an organization continuously improves their program and is assessed by an external review board.

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, and Brookhaven Estates apartments. It is a non-profit, city-owned facility that offers the community a full range of inpatient, outpatient, and extended care services. The emergency room is staffed 24 hours a day and provides around the clock medical-nursing care for 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