18 months ago Byrd Regional Hospital in Leesville began the application process to enroll in a Louisiana Department of Health program intended to boost breastfeeding rates among patients who give birth there.

The Gift program provides resources and a framework to help improve breastfeeding outcomes through incremental adoption of internationally recognized practices.

Byrd went through a specific process to officially become Gift designated. One of the main aspects of the process was that the hospital staff worked to improve policies and practices by aligning with The Gift’s 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

Byrd Hospital staff had cake to celebrate their success in achieving Gift program designation on Monday.

Dr. Damian Delhomme, OBGYN, cited the importance of breastfeeding for its nutritional properties which are specifically designed for each baby. He also emphasized the fact that breastfeeding is free, compared to costly formula, which comes with the time-consuming work of using and cleaning bottles and other equipment. Delhomme pointed out that breastfeeding also creates important bonding experiences between mother and child, and also for involved fathers.

Joyce Lansdale, RN, who started the program at Byrd said The Gift provides tools to parents including app for tech-savvy moms and dads.

The family unit has been reformed to ensure the first hour after birth is designed wholly for skin-to-skin contact between mother, child, and father. Babies stay in the room 23 hours of each day with the family, said Lansdale. The changes also enable “quiet time” for new baby and parents 1:30 p.m. - 3 p.m. every day. This means no visitors or hospital staff are in the room unless they are needed.

According to information from the Louisiana Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System and the Centers for Disease Control, The Gift makes a difference in increasing breastfeeding rates and hospital success.

In Louisiana, only 60.9% of infants are ever breastfed, compared to 81.1% nationally. Breastfeeding initiation was 71% in Gift designated and facilities and 61% in facilities which are not designated. Women who delivered in Gift designated facilities were 60% more likely to initiate breastfeeding than women who delivered in non-designated facilities.