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HCGH Selected for “Best Fed Beginnings” Program

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sharon L. Sopp, 410-740-7646,

Howard County General Hospital One Of Only 90 Hospitals Nationwide Selected To Participate In The National Initiative For Children’s Healthcare Quality “Best Fed Beginnings” Collaborative Program

One of Only Two Hospitals in Maryland selected for National Effort to Help Improve Breastfeeding Rates in Hospitals

Columbia, MD (July 9, 2012) – Howard Country General Hospital is one of only 90 hospitals nationwide selected for an unprecedented national effort to increase breastfeeding rates in U.S. hospitals through a collaborative program called Best Fed Beginnings, recently launched by the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality (NICHQ). The hospital is one of only two in Maryland participating in this groundbreaking initiative aimed at promoting exclusive breastfeeding among new mothers in the 29 states with the lowest breastfeeding rates, and highest rates of supplementation during the hospital stay.

Howard County General Hospital will work with the other hospitals in the learning collaborative over the next 22 months to achieve “Baby Friendly” designation. NICHQ’s aim is to help all 90 participating hospitals achieve Baby-Friendly designation by September 2014. This Baby-Friendly designation confirms that a hospital has successfully implemented the American Academy of Pediatrics-endorsed Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, steps developed by the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Baby-Friendly hospitals follow a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother’s choice to breastfeed. Howard County General has been a leader in promoting breastfeeding as part of its overall maternal and newborn care over the years, and attaining the Baby-Friendly Hospital status will further demonstrate the hospital’s commitment to promoting breastfeeding and the long term health of mothers and babies.

“Howard County General is unique in that we see more than 90% of new mothers breastfeeding while in the hospital following delivery. The strong support services and breastfeeding programs we have in place at the hospital make it possible for these new mothers to successfully continue to breastfeed long after they leave us, which is very beneficial for the baby as well as the mother," states Tuvia Blechman, MD, Chairman of Pediatrics and Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Howard County General Hospital.

“We know that long term and exclusive breastfeeding has the most benefit for babies. This collaborative program will help the hospital ensure that we continue to establish good breastfeeding practices in new mothers. It also provides an opportunity to educate and support nursing and physician staff in instilling the skills needed for breastfeeding success, and in helping new mothers continue breastfeeding for the long term,” adds Dr. Blechman.

According to experts, breastfeeding babies right from birth and for an extended period of time has many benefits for babies, as well as mothers. Health benefits of breastfeeding that are widely known and have been published include:

  • Antibodies in breast milk decrease the incidence and severity of childhood illness
  • Reduces infant mortality
  • Supports neurodevelopment in the infant
  • Reduces the risk of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and even asthma
  • For mothers, breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, postpartum depression and cardiovascular disease
Doris Cybert and Sheila Donahue
Doris Cybert Wilcher (left), Lactation Consultant, and Sheila
Donahue, Director of HCGH Women and Children's Services.

Doris Cybert Wilcher, Lactation Consultant at Howard County General, was instrumental in preparing the comprehensive application for this initiative and believes strongly in promoting breastfeeding and supporting a new mother’s choice to breastfeed. The Hospital was chosen based on its history of collaboration, geographic region, target application, and innovative approaches to addressing maternity practices and breastfeeding. As part of the collaborative, Howard County General’s team of lactation consultants, maternal newborn health nurses and physicians will have access to other leading lactation experts, as well as the ability to share information and best practices, problem solve and receive support from the other participating hospitals.

“The goal of this collaborative is to help all hospitals achieve Baby-Friendly designation,” explains Cybert Wilcher. “Research shows that exclusive breastfeeding is achieved on a higher level in Baby-Friendly hospitals than in hospitals that do not have this important designation.”

She adds that out of the approximately 20,000 hospitals worldwide that have attained the Baby-Friendly designation, only 143 are in the U.S. “It’s certainly a difficult, but significant designation to obtain and Howard County General is well on its way, already implementing a number of the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding including: providing an environment for breastfeeding in the first hour of a baby’s life; providing breastfeeding support to mothers; and minimizing the amount of formula given to babies, unless medically indicated.”

“At Howard County General, we follow the practice of breastfeeding friendly initiatives, and as part of this collaborative, we will continue to provide an environment where breastfeeding can flourish,” says Cybert Wilcher.


Best Fed Beginnings is a national initiative to increase the number of U.S. hospitals implementing a proven model for maternity services that better supports a new mother’s choice to breastfeed. Through a cooperative funding agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NICHQ is leading the effort and working closely with Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. Learn more at

Howard County General Hospital: A Member of Johns Hopkins Medicine is a not-for-profit health care provider with 249 licensed beds located in Columbia, Maryland. A comprehensive, acute-care medical center, Howard County General offers a full range of services, from neonatal care and oncology to outpatient treatment and critical care. The hospital has a professional staff of nearly 900 physicians and allied health professionals, representing more than 80 specialties and subspecialties; a workforce of more than 1,700 individuals and nearly 500 volunteers.