IHS Launches Breastfeeding Initiative through Let’s Move! in Indian Country


The Indian Health Service has launched a new breastfeeding initiative designed to create a healthy start on life and prevent childhood obesity as part of the Let’s Move! in Indian Country (LMIC) initiative, spearheaded by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

Today IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux announced the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico. “Our goal for the IHS Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is to certify 14 federal IHS obstetric facilities as baby-friendly hospitals by 2012 and to encourage 12 tribal obstetric facilities to adopt this initiative,” said Dr. Roubideaux in a statement. “This initiative is a quality improvement process to improve breastfeeding rates through new maternity care and infant feeding practices. By promoting breastfeeding, the IHS will reduce current and future medical problems and decrease health care costs.”

Breastfeeding is critical for both baby and mother as it supports infant growth and development, and it protects both the infant’s and the mother’s health, according to the IHS.

“We are truly honored to host the launch of the IHS Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative," Dr. Chris Percy, director of community health services at Northern Navajo Medical Center, said in a statement. “We have seen firsthand the benefits of breastfeeding in reducing the number of visits to our emergency room or acute care clinic for babies with diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia.”

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a series of maternity care practices that were created in 1991 by the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization as the gold standard for significantly increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration rates. Since its inception more than 20 years ago, more than 200,000 hospitals in 156 countries have joined the program, which offers ten steps to successful breastfeeding that enable facilities and communities to support women who breastfeed. Hospitals that demonstrate a commitment to teaching these steps are certified as “baby friendly.”

The launch's invited speakers included Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim; Dr. Susan Karol, IHS chief medical officer; representatives from the Navajo Nation Breastfeeding Coalition and Just Move It program; as well as local women and families who have shared their personal stories about breastfeeding.