Click here to see the hospitals participating in the EMPower Breastfeeding intiative!

Who We Are

EMPower Breastfeeding: Enhancing Maternity Practices (EMPower) is a hospital-based quality improvement initiative focusing on maternity practices leading to Baby-Friendly designation based on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. The initiative is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) and is implemented in partnership with the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (CGBI) and Population Health Improvement Partners (PHIP).

What We Do

EMPower is a quality improvement initiative designed to support hospitals in the achievement of Baby-Friendly USA© designation. EMPower Breastfeeding initiative supports hospitals from 24 states selected in a competitive application process in 2015.
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EMPower Hospital Spotlight: Northwest Medical Center Bentonville

Bentonville_1Bentonville’s culture consists of the charming characteristics of a Southern city and small town, combined with influences from the Northwest Arkansas metropolitan area and a status as a global business hub. Bentonville is located in one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and in the past 20 years, it has transformed from a small town to a bustling center of commerce and entrepreneurialism. According to a recent US Census survey, Bentonville and surrounding communities in Benton County are second in growth for Arkansas and among the 100 fastest-growing counties in the United States. While the Northwest Arkansas economy was historically based upon agriculture and poultry, in recent decades, there has been rapid growth and diversification of its economy and culture due to the three Fortune 500 companies based in the area: Walmart, Tyson Foods, and J.B. Hunt. Both economic growth and wide cultural diversity can be attributed to over 1,250 Walmart suppliers that have established sales offices in the region. These satellite offices for companies of almost every industry mean that a large number of transplants from around the United States and the world can be found in Bentonville. Bentonville_2Within this evolving environment, Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville remains committed to providing exceptional care to the community. To achieve their goals to improve maternal-neonatal health and wellness, this comprehensive care facility applied and was accepted into the EMPower Breastfeeding initiative while in the D1 Discovery Phase of Baby-Friendly USA’s 4-D Pathway. The hospital has gained support in adopting the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as they have progressed along the journey to Baby-Friendly designation. Since joining the EMPower initiative, Northwest Medical Center-Bentonville has benefitted from the individualized coaching and technical assistance offered, in areas such as adherence to the Ten Steps. One of their most noteworthy accomplishments involves Step 4, helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth. By honoring the golden hour in implementation of skin-to-skin, the number of infants that were once “slow to transition” and required “extended monitoring” and “oxygen support” has significantly decreased to the point that it is rare to see an infant fit into those categories! The facility’s EMPower Breastfeeding Coach, Julia Bourg, remarked, “This team worked hard to ensure that foundational steps were in place as they worked towards implementation of other practice changes.” Bentonville_3This facility is close to Baby-Friendly USA designation! They recently had their site visit assessment from the Baby-Friendly representatives and are awaiting the results. Allison Godwin, the facility’s Quality Improvement Coach, noted, “What we appreciated most about this team is their attention to creating sustainable change. They really wanted to make sure that their staff and their organizational culture supported these efforts.” We applaud your wonderful work, Bentonville!

EMPower Hospital Spotlight: Susquehanna Health Williamsport Regional Medical Center

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As the largest city in Lycoming County in north central Pennsylvania, Williamsport is rich with community art and attractions, Victorian architecture, and a vibrant downtown. It is the only city located in the Pennsylvania Wilds, encompassing Williamsport and the surrounding geographic area with scenic mountains and forests that place them away from the state’s major metropolitan areas. Williamsport is best known as the birthplace of Little League Baseball® and welcomes the world every summer for the Little League Baseball® World Series. In 2014, the Williamsport population was 116,108 (50% female), with a majority of citizens between the ages of 18-44 years. Caucasians represent 92.5% of the population, and 4.7% are African American. In 2014, the poverty level was approximately 16%. The area offers higher education, with Lycoming College and Pennsylvania College of Technology attracting a variety of students and faculty every year. Also nearby is The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC®), an affiliate of Susquehanna Health. Susquehanna Health is one of the top employers in the county and consists of medical facilities across multiple areas. Prostate cancer, breast cancer, diabetes and mental health are recognized as mortality challenges for the county, but optimal breastfeeding practices can help improve the health of future generations in Northern Pennsylvania.

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Susquehanna Health Williamsport Regional Medical Center is located within the city of Williamsport and serves the urban population as well as the surrounding rural community. The hospital delivers approximately 1200-1500 births annually. Since joining the EMPower initiative while in the D3 Dissemination phase of Baby-Friendly USA’s 4-D Pathway, the facility has gained closer collaboration between all departments providing maternal and infant care. Providing evidence-based care for mothers and babies truly engages all providers, staff members, and departments. EMPower has also supported the Williamsport Regional Medical Center team to organize policies and documents and to develop effective, consistent performance improvement methods and efficient data collection. In addition, the EMPower initiative facilitates engagement between hospitals, and Williamsport Regional Medical Center has been able to network with other healthcare systems, sharing information and resources to help achieve the overall national goal of impacting public health. The facility has developed educational materials for the prenatal setting and for the postpartum period that they have disseminated to other hospitals in the EMPower initiative. The facility also offers services beyond discharge, including private consultations and casual mother-to-mother support groups. Gigi Lawless, the EMPower Breastfeeding Coach for this facility, adds, “Williamsport Regional Medical Center has truly engaged in the collaborative spirit by sharing resources with other facilities. They are currently in D4 and have quite a bit of insight to offer to the facilities that are not as far along in their implementation of the Ten Steps.”

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Throughout their Baby-Friendly journey, the Williamsport Regional Medical Center team has faced various challenges, but they have also celebrated many triumphs. It takes a steadfast commitment to develop and implement the changes needed to achieve an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. Being part of a nationwide initiative displays the value of their commitment to completing this journey. Their EMPower Quality Improvement Coach, Sue Butts-Dion, reflects on her impression of this facility: “The Williamsport Regional Medical Center team exemplifies what it requires to take on this type of organizational improvement effort and be successful. They have the motivation that an initiative of this scope requires, and they take advantage of every opportunity afforded them through EMPower to learn new things and to apply them in their organization.”

EMPower Hospital Spotlight: Northwest Health System – Willow Creek Women’s Hospital

Willow Creek Women's Hospital is located in Johnson, Arkansas, a town of approximately 3,500 residents just outside of Fayetteville in the far Northwest corner of the state. Nestled on a plateau in the Ozark Mountains, the community of Johnson is multi-ethnic, with a broad range of socioeconomic status levels. Committed to improving patients’ health, Willow Creek applied and was selected into the EMPower Breastfeeding initiative, which provides support and technical assistance to help hospitals adopt the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and ultimately achieve Baby-Friendly designation. The facility entered the initiative while in the D2 Development Phase of Baby-Friendly USA's 4-D Pathway, and since then, Willow Creek  has taken full advantage of the individualized coaching and mentoring offered throughout the initiative, and has benefited from the financial incentives as well. Through EMPower and the journey to Baby-Friendly, Willow Creek aims to improve health outcomes in their community through improving the number of mothers who exclusively breastfeed their baby. They also hope to succeed in raising awareness about breastfeeding in the community of Northwest Arkansas and increasing the support that breastfeeding women are able to receive.

Since starting the implementation of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, Willow Creek has seen a significant rise in their exclusive breastfeeding rates (now at 84%) coupled with an amazing improvement in overall patient satisfaction. They work very closely with their local breastfeeding coalition and have made strides with community engagement. “Willow Creek continues to work collaboratively with community providers and organizations to ensure that mothers receive ongoing support and continuity of care” said Julia Bourg, the facility’s breastfeeding coach for the EMPower initiative. One achievement they have been able to share with other hospitals in the EMPower initiative is the educational slides they developed for all 15 categories outlined by the WHO/UNICEF 20-hour training program requirement. This facility is very close to becoming designated! They have recently had their site visit assessment from Baby-Friendly representatives and are anxiously awaiting to hear the results. Willow Creek hopes to be a trend setter for all Arkansas healthcare facilities, encouraging them to adapt best-practices for both the mother and infant. Great job, Willow Creek! We hope to celebrate with you very soon!

Breastfeeding in the News - Impact of BFHI Ten Steps

EMPower_BFHI Post A new narrative systematic review in Maternal and Child Nutrition found that adherence to the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) Ten Steps has a positive impact on breastfeeding outcomes, with a dose–response relationship between the number of BFHI steps women are exposed to and the likelihood of improved breastfeeding outcomes. Read the full abstract and article here: "Impact of the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative on breastfeeding and child health outcomes: a systematic review."