Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville Continues to Improve Breastfeeding Rates, Educate Community on Benefits


BROWNSVILLE, Texas – From training to community education, Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville is working hard to continue to ensure that the community’s newborns and mothers get off to a quick start on the road to leading happier, healthier lives through a continued focus on breastfeeding.

The efforts, which go along with Valley Baptist-Brownsville’s designation in 2018 as a Texas Ten Step Program facility in addition to its Mother-Friendly Worksite certification by the Department of State Health Services, are important pieces to providing comprehensive care to the mothers and newborns of south Texas, said Valley Baptist-Brownsville Chief Nursing Officer Dawn LeRoy.

“We took a close look at the way we care for women and children at Valley Baptist-Brownsville,” LeRoy said. “As part of that process, we saw that we could do more to provide high-quality healthcare for our community in relation to encouraging our new mothers to breastfeed.”

Samantha Martinez, clinical supervisor of children’s services, said that the work to improve breastfeeding rates and education at Valley Baptist-Brownsville began about two years ago when the hospital started to pursue the Texas Ten Step designation.

“We knew we had to take a critical look at those numbers, and we found breastfeeding rates in the teens and twenties (percent). We knew we had to do better,” she said. “As we entered the application process for the Texas Ten Step designation, we worked hard to help our staff become more educated on breastfeeding, and that’s when we really noticed our numbers start to improve.”

Martinez said the quest to improve breastfeeding rates, which have skyrocketed to 50 percent or higher in 2019, snowballed into an effort of comprehensive care, including additional staff training and changes to policies and procedures at Valley Baptist-Brownsville to promote breastfeeding as well as bonding between mother and baby through skin-to-skin contact.

“Around that time I also received my certification in Kangaroo Care, which is training to ensure that skin-to-skin time between mother and baby is done appropriately and safely with term babies as well as pre-term babies in our NICU,” she said. “With that knowledge, we were able to train the rest of our staff and implement that training in our labor and delivery unit, in addition to moving away from the traditional nursery setting into a true mother baby unit at Valley Baptist.”

In the quest to improve breastfeeding rates at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, technology and education have both been a focus. While high-tech breast pumps that more realistically mimic the feel of a breastfeeding infant and simulators designed to help staff practice hand expression are important tools, nothing trumps the importance of educating the community on the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and newborn, said Miriam Longoria, director of labor and delivery, obstetric operating rooms, and mother baby unit at Valley Baptist-Brownsville.

“This whole effort starts at the very beginning. We don’t want our patients to hear about breastfeeding when they come in to deliver their babies,” she said. “We want to make sure that they’re being educated from the minute they find out that they’re pregnant and they visit their obstetrician’s office for the first time. That means collaborating quite a bit with our physician partners and getting that information out to their offices as well as educating physicians about what we’re doing at Valley Baptist.”

Marimer Morales, registered nurse for lactation services at Valley Baptist-Brownsville, said the education effort includes monthly breastfeeding and childbirth classes at Valley Baptist, which highlight the benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and newborns alike.

“For mothers, breastfeeding lowers the risk of pre-menopausal ovarian and breast cancer, helps lower her risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, and can even help with losing pregnancy weight,” she said.

Longoria said the classes play an important role in making sure new mothers know what to expect well before their baby’s birth at Valley Baptist-Brownsville.

“The focus with the breastfeeding and childbirth classes is to highlight what we’re doing differently at Valley Baptist that isn’t happening elsewhere in the Valley,” she said. “We’re working to be forward-thinking for our community and for the entire Valley.”