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(Richmond, Va.)—The Virginia Department of Health is recognizing 13 hospitals from across the state with a Virginia Maternity Center Breastfeeding-Friendly Designation for their efforts in implementing policies and practices that support a breastfeeding-friendly environment for patients. The designation is based on the World Health Organization’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. These steps support initiation, exclusivity and continuation of breastfeeding. The Virginia Maternity Care Quality Improvement Collaborative works with Virginia’s 55 maternity centers on quality improvement in maternity care practices to protect, promote, and support safe and effective infant feeding and care.

I applaud the commitment of these hospitals to adopt evidence-based practices to increase breastfeeding. One of the Virginia Plan for Well-Being’s main focuses is supporting women and their families in breastfeeding for at least six months, and there is no stronger or healthier start to a child’s life than breastfeeding,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “Breastfeeding is the normal and optimal feeding method for infants. Breastmilk supports the immune system and protects babies from many health problems, including asthma, childhood obesity and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The work of the Virginia Maternity Care Quality Improvement Collaborative and our community partners will help Virginia become the healthiest state in the nation.

In January 2011, US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin released The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, which included the Health Care Action Step to “ensure that maternity care practices throughout the United States are fully supportive of breastfeeding.”  The policies and practices in birth hospitals are critical to get breastfeeding off to a good start.

Infants who experience skin-to-skin contact immediately post-partum fair better, experience less crying and stress signals, and have earlier breastfeeding initiation due to their ability to smell and feel their mother,” said VDH Director of Prevention and Health Promotion Heather Funkhouser Board. “These facilities are committed to improving the care of our youngest and most vulnerable citizens and we commend their efforts.”

The awards ceremony takes place May 20, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. at the Westin Richmond, 6631 West Broad Street, Richmond, Va. 23230.

To learn more about the program, visit

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