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WHO and UNICEF Designate Florida Hospital Blessed Beginnings “Baby-Friendly”

The Jarrett Family Blessed Beginnings Birthing Center at Florida Hospital has received the prestigious international “Baby-Friendly” Certification from the World Health Organization and UNICEF. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global initiative that promotes evidence-based practices to support new mothers as it relates to breastfeeding.

"Our new Baby-Friendly designation supports Florida Hospital’s mission to ‘extend the healing ministry of Christ.’ It will positively impact our ability to provide progressive maternity care for our Heartland community. Our hospital staff delivers compassionate care because we know that the people we serve are more than just patients, they’re our friends, neighbors and family,” said Florida Hospital President & CEO Eric Stevens.

This is not an easy accreditation, but the achievement is the result of a more than two-year commitment to women and their babies led by the Florida Hospital obstetric nursing and physician team. In fact, Blessed Beginnings is the only hospital in the Heartland, and only one of six in Florida, that has the privilege of being recognized Baby-Friendly.

By having the prestigious Baby-Friendly certification, Florida Hospital is part of a larger effort to improve the care of local pregnant women, mothers and newborns at Blessed Beginnings and in our community by providing maternity services that protect, promote and support the best birth and feeding practices. This initiative is focused on the “10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.”

Photo Cutline: Florida Hospital President & CEO Eric Stevens presents the “Baby-Friendly” Designation to the Blessed Beginnings Birthing Team members (left to right) RN Christine Douglass, OB RN Manager Donna Wissing, IBCLC RN Anna Edgar, RN Susan Stewart and Child Birth Educator RN Jill Jernigan.

“We knew that the Baby-Friendly evidence-based birth and feeding practices were recommended by our various professional organizations and governmental agencies. So when the initiative was sponsored by the CDC and being offered to only 90 hospitals nationwide, we jumped at the opportunity. We went through a rigorous application process and were lucky enough to be selected!” said Florida Hospital Obstetrics Nurse Manager Donna Wissing.

All Florida Hospital registered nurses that care for pregnant and birthing mothers successfully completed a 20-hour class which featured 15-hours of instructive study and five-hours of hands-on training. Physicians and nurse practitioners also had to pass a five-hour training course. Annual continuing education about breastfeeding and lactating mothers is also required for the obstetrics staff.

Blessed Beginnings staff offer an array of educational classes for the community focused on child birth, birth coordination plans, breast feeding and new mother support. The lactation consultant team, comprised of four certified-lactation counselors and two International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, works specifically to help new mothers with feeding. For any birth-related issues or questions, the team can meet couples prenatally, during the hospital stay or following discharge. To reach Blessed Beginnings regarding an educational class, please call (863) 402-3405 or visit                 ...       

UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies are breastfed exclusively for their first six months of life. The Baby-Friendly Initiative aims to increase the numbers of babies who are exclusively breastfed worldwide, a goal which the WHO estimates could contribute to avoiding over a million child deaths each year, and potentially many premature maternal deaths as well. Studies have shown that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from serious illnesses, including gastroenteritis, asthma, eczema, and respiratory and ear infections. It has been calculated that more than 900 infant lives per year may be saved in the United States if 90% of mothers exclusively breastfed for six months. Longer breastfeeding was associated with lower risk.