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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC gifted millions for research into motherhood health

UNC Hospitals

Groups of people enter and exit the N.C. Memorial Hospital, one of several UNC Hospitals.

The Duke Endowment has awarded $5 million to the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute to expand their ENRICH Carolinas project.

Housed in the UNC Gillings School of Public Health, ENRICH Carolinas aims to ensure all maternity care hospitals and birthing centers in both North and South Carolina are working toward earning their Baby-Friendly designation, as established by the World Health Organization.

“There are ten steps to successful breastfeeding” said Catherine Sullivan, director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute and principal investigator of ENRICH Carolinas.

In order for an institution to earn the Baby-Friendly designation, they must implement all 10 steps. Under these steps, nurses are required to undergo 20 hours of breastfeeding education — five of which involve hands-on learning. In addition, physicians and nurse practitioners are required to have completed three hours of training.

The three major disciplines covered during this training are prenatal care, hospital practice and childcare. It is essential that caregivers are able to effectively educate mothers about the implications of their choice to breastfeed or not.

In addition, these trainings emphasize practices such as putting babies skin-to-skin with their mothers within the first hour of life and providing the opportunity for the baby and mother to room together. Keeping the mother with her baby as much as possible allows her to learn to recognize her baby’s specific cues and needs.

Since it began in 2017, ENRICH Carolinas has been helping hospitals, prenatal clinics and childcare centers across the Carolinas maneuver their way through the Baby-Friendly designation process. Using the funding from the Duke Endowment, the project now plans to expand their impact beyond the 19 counties in which they currently work.

Since breastfeeding offers so many health benefits for both the baby and the mother, ENRICH Carolinas hopes to one day reach every baby born in both states. 

“There’s a lower rate of sudden infant death syndrome in exclusively breastfed babies,” as well as “a risk reduction for cancer and blood pressure problems and obesity,” said Sullivan.

As for the mother, breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease and breast and ovarian cancer.

The ENRICH Carolinas project ensures that no matter where a woman delivers within the Carolinas, they get quality care that results in optimal health outcomes for both her and her child.

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