by Joni Astrup
Sherburne County Health and Human Services’ Public Health Division is being recognized for its work to support and promote breast-feeding.
The division was recently awarded bronze level recognition as a Breast-feeding Friendly Health Department by the Minnesota Department of Health.
Gloria Sorem, lead public health nurse with the Sherburne County Public Health Division and an international board-certified lactation consultant, said the program is a way for public health departments to publicly demonstrate support for new moms and families.
“It’s really a nice assurance for the public and a guarantee of what kind of support public health has for breast-feeding in the community,” she said. “Increasingly, breast-feeding is recognized as the norm for infant feeding.”
Sorem said there are three levels of recognition in the program. Bronze is the first step, followed by silver and gold.
“Our goal is to work toward the silver level (in 2017) and then, eventually, the gold,” she said.
Achieving that recognition requires meeting a variety of benchmarks covering areas such as staff training, policy and public education.
Sorem noted that Kristy Heying, a certified lactation counselor with Sherburne County Public Health Division, has been instrumental in working on a number of breast-feeding initiatives.
Local public health agencies are uniquely poised to shape the environment to better support and promote breast-feeding, according to a memo to the Sherburne County Board about the recent recognition.
“Completing some or all of the steps to being a Breast-feeding Friendly Health Department lends credibility and visibility to local public health agencies and demonstrates their support for new mothers and families,” stated the memo, which was signed by Mary Jo Cobb, Sherburne County Health and Human Services director.
Across Minnesota, not just health departments, but maternity centers, workplaces and child care facilities are being recognized as breast-feeding friendly, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
10 steps for achieving breast-feeding friendly status
To be eligible for recognition at the bronze level, a health department must demonstrate completion of steps 1 and 2, and any three additional steps, for a total of five steps.
To be eligible for recognition at the silver level, a health department must demonstrate completion of the requirements for bronze level recognition, plus completion of any two additional steps.
To be eligible for recognition at the gold level, a health department must demonstrate completion of all 10 steps, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
1. Establish a designated individual or group to lead the effort to become a breast-feeding-friendly health department.
2. Have a written breast-feeding policy.
3. Coordinate support and promotion to establish breast-feeding as the “norm” in the community.
4. Collaborate with community partners to ensure access to breast-feeding classes.
5. Educate the community on breast-feeding support.
6. Encourage racially/ethnically diverse community resources.
7. Support mothers in initiating and maintaining breast-feeding for 12 months and beyond.
8. Encourage local public places to provide a breast-feeding-friendly environment.
9. Provide workplace lactation support training.
10. Facilitate access to information and training for local child care centers to support breast-feeding.