The sound of music at Roper St. Francis Mount Pleasant Hospital meant another baby had been delivered and no one could have been prouder than members of the Salley family who travelled from Clemson and Columbia to celebrate the moment.
Right after the lullaby ended, the new father, Rotie Salley, appeared and announced to the group that Catherine had just delivered a baby girl named Emily Ann Salley and that mother and daughter were doing just fine.
With that news, Rotie’s brother walked up to the new father and offered him, “a fine gas-station cigar,” and everybody laughed and exhaled in the glow of good news.
But the good news doesn’t end with the delivery of a baby at RSF Mount Pleasant Hospital. It actually begins with the implementation of a program called “Baby Friendly,” an international initiative that promotes breast feeding and keeping moms and baby together.
“We’re in the final stage of a two-year journey toward a culture change,” said Happy Everette, clinical manager of the Women’s, Infant and Children’s Services. “Baby Friendly defines 10 steps to successful breast feeding. If all hospitals follow these steps they will have more well babies that leave the hospital.”
Studies show that breast feeding reduces the future problems of obesity in babies as well as less ear infection, asthma and fewer allergies, which impacts the total dollar amount a community saves on each child.
In short, the program trains new mothers in breast feeding and encourages the practice of “rooming in,” which allows mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day. And, no pacifiers are allowed.
This new initiative is all about “skin-to-skin” in the delivery room, meaning the child is immediately handed to the mother so the bonding can begin. And while scenes from old Hollywood movies showed babies swaddled and gawked over in a sterile nursery, the new trend is to keep the child in the mother’s arms as much as possible.
“Not too long ago, we would take the babies straight to the nursery after delivery and it could be hours before the mother sees the child,” Everette said. “Turns out, we were one of the only cultures on earth that did that. Our goal now is to initiate breast feeding within an hour of birth.”
Achieving this kind of cultural shift does not happen overnight, Everette said. Not only are future parents educated in pre-natal classes, the staff at RSF Mount Pleasant Hospital, including physicians, have been reeducated in the importance of breast feeding and touch.
In July, RSF Mount Pleasant Hospital became the first hospital in Charleston to earn the Baby-Friendly designation.
And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, just ask Emily Ann.
By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist, blogger and local author