The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded Detroit's St. John Hospital and Medical Center $1.2 million to promote breast-feeding, particularly among low-income and minority women.
St. John will use the grant funds to expand upon its St. John Mother Nurture Project breast-feeding program. St. John currently has lactation consultants to advise new moms about breast-feeding; it has an outpatient clinic to help women address problems with breast-feeding; and it has a retail shop that rents and sells pumps and other supplies.
The grant will enable St. John to grow its staff of lactation consultants. It will allow the staff to have a presence in a St. John prenatal clinic that serves patients insured by Medicaid. St. John's plans to enhance its community outreach, hosting education forums about breast-feeding, offering support groups and partnering more closely with community groups, including parish nurses.
The funding will help St. John to complete a multiphase accreditation process with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund. St. John is aiming to be the first Michigan hospital to be recognized as a "Baby-Friendly" organization, or a facility that educates clinicians and patients on the value of breast-feeding and that creates an environment that is conducive to breast-feeding.
Dr. Paula Schreck, medical director of breast-feeding medicine at St. John, said breast-feeding betters the health of women and their babies. Schreck said St. John hopes the grant will help staff to educate people about the value of breast-feeding so that more mothers will make this healthful choice.
Schreck said research shows that breast-feeding rates are lower in low-income populations and in minority populations than in the broader population. She said there are many reasons for this disparity: Some poorer women get less prenatal care and therefore may not hear from their doctor about the benefits of breast-feeding. Some women hear commercials that claim formula is just as healthy as breast milk, and they may not know that this is not the case. Some believe, incorrectly, that working women can't breast-feed. In African-American communities, recent generations have given up breast-feeding, and so many black mothers today hesitate to take up the practice, said Schreck.
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