St. John Hospital earns ‘Baby-Friendly’ status

Designation means the hospital provides strong breast-feeding support

By: April Lehmbeck | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 30, 2014

DETROIT — St. John Hospital and Medical Center is the sole Detroit hospital to earn the “Baby-Friendly” designation from Baby-Friendly USA Inc.

They’re in rare company across the state, too, because there are only a few hospitals to have earned the distinction in Michigan.

St. John Hospital, at Moross and Mack, earned the distinction because it makes infant feeding and mother/baby bonding a priority by taking steps to ensure that breast-feeding mothers have the support they need for feeding success.

“We are thrilled to have earned this important designation,” Dr. Paula Schreck said in a news release. “As a Baby-Friendly facility, the community can be confident that St. John Hospital provides the most supportive care for moms and babies through comprehensive breast-feeding support services.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a press release in 2011 about a project to accelerate the number of U.S. “Baby-Friendly” hospitals.

“We need to help hospitals improve their maternity care to better support breast-feeding,” CDC representative William Dietz stated in a press release from 2011 about the initiative. “This project takes steps to do that, and it offers real solutions to improve the health of mothers and babies.”

Despite an effort to see more hospitals earn the “Baby-Friendly” status for years now, the number of hospitals earning the designation is relatively small compared to the number of hospitals nationwide.

In terms of supporting the needs of mothers and babies, St. John has a day and night breast-feeding support service, an outpatient breast-feeding clinic and a support group for moms who are breast feeding.

Through their initiatives, they’ve seen increases in breast feeding in Detroit. For example, the percentage of breast-feeding initiation rates at St. John has increased from 55 percent in 2011 to more than 75 percent.

Hospital officials say that their success in achieving the Baby-Friendly moniker is also thanks to a number of partners like the Black Mothers Breast-feeding Association, Urban League Detroit/WIC and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, among others.  

“In recent months, Kellogg also awarded St. John Providence another sizeable grant that will be used to expand the Mother Nurture Lactation College, which is a unique education model for minority women in the Detroit area to achieve International Board of Certified Lactation Consultant status,” the hospital stated in the news release.

Schreck said that focusing on the needs of babies and their mothers is part of the hospital’s culture.

“It’s what we do at the hospital … every day, every mother, every patient,” she said.

While it’s not common in the United States to earn a “Baby-Friendly” designation, it is in some other nations like New Zealand. A big issue in the United States is that even among the hospitals with the designation, few are found in urban settings, Schreck said.

She thinks it’s important for Detroit to have a hospital with that “Baby-Friendly” distinction within the city limits.

To learn more about the “Baby-Friendly” initiative, visit