BMH Part of Department of Health Program to Promote Breastfeeding

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital is one of 10 Vermont hospitals taking part in a project to improve exclusive breastfeeding rates, prevent childhood obesity and promote lifelong health.

Organized by the Vermont Department of Health’s division of Maternal and Child Health’s Nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the goal of the 10 Steps to Empower Mothers and Nurture Babies project is designed to help hospitals achieve World Health Organization guidelines that have been consistently associated with successful breastfeeding.

As part of its participation, BMH will host training sessions for two Fridays in September. Healthcare professionals from as far afield as Bennington and Rutland will travel to Brattleboro to learn best practices for supporting breastfeeding when working with infants and new moms from the hospital’s four International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants.

Dawn Kersula, RN

“Some of the World Health Organization guidelines have been part of our practice for more than 20 years,” says Dawn Kersula, RN, a perinatal specialist and lead lactation consultant at BMH. “We’ve cultivated a real community where over 90 percent of all babies born at the BMH Birthing Center begin their lives breastfeeding.”

Kersula, who is president of the Vermont Lactation Association, will be also part of the state’s teaching faculty, lecturing on breastfeeding topics such as attachment and latch at University of Vermont’s Fletcher-Allen Hospital in Burlington. She adds that BMH provides additional breastfeeding support through outpatient lactation services and the New Moms Network, a free group meeting every Wednesday from 9:30 to 11:00 AM in the BMH Exercise Room.

More than 85 percent of Vermont mothers breastfeed in the hospital, which is one of the highest rates in the country. But by six months, only one in four are still exclusively breastfeeding their babies. Research shows significant improvements when mothers of healthy infants experience a combination of five hospital practices: breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, keeping infants in the same room as their mothers, feeding infants only breast milk unless supplements are medically indicated, not allowing infants to use a pacifier, and giving mothers telephone number to call for help with breastfeeding.

“Mothers who want to breastfeed need support in the hospital to reach their breastfeeding goal,” said Karen Flynn, WIC program administrator for the Health Department. “Hospital policies, procedures and staff can have a great influence on mothers and babies as they begin to breastfeed, either helping or hindering their success.”

Participating hospitals use interdisciplinary teams to set process and outcomes goals focused on improving the hospital’s Maternity Practices and Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) scores, which will increase Vermont’s statewide scores. Four collaborative goals have been set for all participating hospitals. Each hospital will also select individual measurable goals based on current practice, the mPINC scores of their facility and known gaps in care.

In addition to hospitals like BMH that use evidence-based maternity care practices as standards of care, the Vermont Child Health Improvement Project (VCHIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics, Vermont Chapter, and the Academy of Family Practitioners, Health Department district offices, local and statewide breastfeeding coalitions and mother/baby support services and resources are also project partners in this statewide quality improvement initiative.

For more information, contact the Vermont Department of Health Communications Office at 802-863-7281.

Visit to learn more about our Change the Landscape campaign, the importance of breastfeeding and health, and what individuals can do to support breastfeeding in their communities.

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