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(Richmond, Va.)—The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) today announced it is recognizing six hospitals from across the Commonwealth 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.

“As we work toward becoming the healthiest state in the nation, one of the best things we can do for families is support women in giving their children a healthy start by breastfeeding for at least six months. Breastfeeding is the normal and optimal feeding method for infants,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “In addition to supporting the immune system, breastmilk protects babies from many health problems, including asthma, childhood obesity and SIDS. I applaud the commitment of these hospitals and the important work of the Virginia Maternity Care Quality Improvement Collaborative as they strive to make our Commonwealth more breastfeeding friendly and work to assure a strong start for all children consistent with the Virginia Plan for Well-Being (”

The awards ceremony took place at the annual in-person learning session of the Virginia Maternity Care Quality Improvement Collaborative.  The Collaborative works with Virginia’s birth facilities on quality improvement in maternity care practices to protect, promote and support safe and effective infant feeding and care.

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.”

In January 2011, then US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin released The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, which included the Health Care Action Steps 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 and help provide a strong start for all children in Virginia.

To learn more about the program, visit

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