Cherokee Nation Hastings Hospital Designated Baby Friendly

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cherokeebabyTAHLEQUAH, Okla.— Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital has been officially designated as a baby friendly hospital by Baby Friendly USA, a world-wide program that recognizes hospitals that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother and baby bonding.

“We are honored to be the first tribally operated hospital in Oklahoma designated as a baby friendly hospital,” said Connie Davis, Executive Director of Cherokee Nation Health Services. “This designation shows our continuing commitment for strong healthy families in our communities.”

Launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, Baby Friendly USA recognizes hospitals who successfully implement certain criteria that provide strong family bonds to the baby and the parents. Included in the criteria are breastfeeding your newborn and keeping the baby in the room with the mother 23 hours of the 24 hour day.

Studies have shown breast-fed babies have lower rates of diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome and other illnesses. The WHO maintains that breast-feeding will help cut child deaths from malnutrition, which is now responsible for nearly half of all deaths of children younger than age five.

To become certified, a hospital must adopt 10 practices that research has shown to promote breast-feeding, including skin-to-skin contact between mother and infant within the first hour of life and rooming in — 23 out of 24 hours a day. Hospitals must also have written policies, give no pacifiers to the baby, foster support groups, and train all healthcare staff in implementing the policy.

Achieving the designation as a Baby Friendly Hospital is difficult, as it requires specialized training among all staff members and assures quality in all aspects of the hospital’s maternity care operations.

According to Carrie Rigsby, Nurse Educator for Cherokee Nation Health Services, being recognized as a Baby Friendly hospital is a statement to the community that Cherokee Nation Health Services has taken the extra steps to go above and beyond to improve the health of the baby and the family.

“This is best health care from the beginning of life,” Rigsby said.  “Encouraging and supporting a mom to breast feed is such a huge health improvement for mom’s and babies’ long-term health. With our high rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma, and obesity this information gives our families some hope to lower those numbers.”

The hospital added resources for new mothers, including 24 hour breastfeeding rooms, a breastfeeding support group, and additional follow ups by pediatricians.

Rigsby said the recognition means the hard work of the staff has paid off, and because of it tremendous improvements have been made that will benefit the hospital’s OB patients in their education and care. “Our staff has done an amazing job and now we have the accreditation to prove it,” she said.

Photo Cutline: Cherokee Nation WW Hastings Hospital has been designated a Baby Friendly Hospital by Baby Friendly USA, an initiative of the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund. It is the first tribally-operated hospital in Oklahoma to be designated by the group.

About Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation is the sovereign operating government of the Cherokee people. It is a federally recognized tribe of more than 300,000 Cherokee citizens, with its capital located in Tahlequah, Okla. Employing more than 8,200 people, Cherokee Nation’s annual economic impact in Oklahoma and surrounding areas is more than $1.3 billion. To learn more, please visit



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