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What Does It Mean To Be Baby-Friendly?

As this trend continues to grow in popularity, you’ve likely noticed more and more hospitals striving for the Baby-Friendly designation. Even though the name may sound like something obvious that all hospitals are, or should be doing, this designation is actually a part of a special initiative by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

The fundamental purpose of this initiative is to encourage the healthiest start possible for both mom and baby. To get a better understanding of what this means, we asked Kathryn Parris, MD, medical director of women’s health services at Gwinnett Medical Center, for her insight on the importance of this initiative.

What is the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative?

This initiative was originally launched in 1991 as part of a global program that encouraged and recognized hospitals that offer and support an optimal level of care for mother/baby bonding and infant feeding. For hospitals to receive this special recognition, they must successfully implement Baby-Friendly’s criteria to help create a supportive breastfeeding environment.

While many of these criteria center on the importance of breastfeeding, this is not the sole purpose of this initiative. Unfortunately, there is a common misconception that being a baby-friendly facility means that mothers are forced to breastfeed and room-in regardless of their desire or ability to do so. However, this is not at all the case. “This initiative encourages breastfeeding and room-ing-in as the first choice for new moms because of the benefits both of these practices offer,” explains Dr. Parris.

For instance, studies have shown that breast-fed babies often have lower rates of diabetes, childhood leukemia, asthma, allergies, sudden infant death syndrome, and many other illnesses. Additionally, rooming-in has been shown to nurture mother/baby bonding and connection. “It was previously thought that separating mother and baby would promote restful sleep for the mother; however, recent evidence suggests that being close to their baby will actually help mom to sleep better” adds Dr. Parris.

What does it mean for GMC’s Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion to be Baby-Friendly?

The Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion has always been dedicated to providing compassionate, comprehensive care throughout your birthing experience. “From the moment you enter into the Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion, the physicians, nurses, and staff are there to ensure that you and your baby receive the care you need at every step,” emphasizes Dr. Parris. “We value your birth plan and strive to put the unique needs and desires of your family first.”

Once you deliver your baby, GMC’s knowledgeable nurses are readily available to assist you with any questions or concerns you have, as well as to provide helpful information about how to care for your baby, including feeding, bathing and changing.

“We also promote rooming-in for mom and baby,” adds Dr. Parris. “This helps to nurture your bond, as well as help you to learn about your baby’s cues for hunger.” Specially-trained nurses and lactation consultants are easily accessible to provide the support you need to make your breastfeeding journey a success. Of course, they also offer alternative arrangements if needed or requested by the mother and/or family.

Even after you leave the Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion, GMC’s dedication and care for you and your baby doesn’t stop. They offer educational resources, support groups, and classes to help both before and after baby.

The Gwinnett Women’s Pavilion has been providing exceptional care for new moms since 1991. “This Baby-Friendly initiative is just one more example of how we’re making the health of you and your baby our top priority,” notes Dr. Parris.

To learn more about the personalized maternity and newborn care at Gwinnett Medical Center, visit