A Busy Summer: Building Blocks, Babies and Breastfeeding

Posted August 15, 2014 by Meghan Johnson, MSc

Meghan JohnsonAugust is typically a month for relaxing, vacationing and taking long weekends to enjoy the warm weather. At NICHQ, we get our share of R & R, but August 2014 is also a particularly busy and exciting time! 

In August, we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), and as part of that, I am excited to help launch NICHQ’s new breastfeeding project with the New York State Department of Health. NICHQ has a successful history of helping hospitals in New York improve breastfeeding rates through a previous engagement, which involved 12 hospitals.  This time, we have been given the opportunity to work with up to 78 additional hospitals to improve their maternity care services. This means we’ll be helping to improve care for mothers and babies at nearly every facility providing maternity services in the state of New York.  

As the project lead on this effort, I’m so excited to be able to affect change on this large a scale. But, most of all, I’m happy for the thousands of mothers and babies whose lives will be positively impacted by the work we do.

I’ve been at NICHQ long enough now to have an overarching view of our work. What’s most interesting to me is how improvement efforts, if properly constructed, can build on each other, so that each subsequent effort benefits from the knowledge gained in the previous efforts. Not only does the New York project build on a previous initiative in that state, but it also builds on NICHQ’s other breastfeeding projects—Best Fed Beginnings, a national initiative involving 89 hospitals, and the Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative, which will involve up to 81 facilities in that state.

Through that work, all of us at NICHQ have learned alongside the state and local teams, through every test and change and new way of working. We’ve learned what changes and systems have been successful in improving breastfeeding rates at different hospitals and birth centers across the country. And, we bring that knowledge and share those practices with each new team and project.

One of NICHQ’s unique contributions is our ability to make these connections between projects, organizations, teams and individuals—to create a constantly expanding learning system so that new efforts are built on the shoulders of others, not needing to start from scratch. 

As one example, we plan to tackle the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in a new way based on learnings from the previous projects. We’ve learned that Step 4 (skin-to-skin contact) and Step 7 (rooming in) take the longest to implement and change. So, teams in New York will start with those steps first.

I take this responsibility very seriously. As an organization, NICHQ is deeply dedicated to walking the talk when it comes to quality improvement (QI). Using QI methods in every aspect of our work is one of our core values and key strategies for success. Staff members are trained and coached from the day each of us joins the team. It’s amazing to me how much NICHQ invests in its people, ensuring that all of our staff members are well-versed and comfortable using QI (in addition to other professional development trainings and classes). I know that many of us even bring that knowledge home to address “systematic” challenges in our personal lives as well, somewhat to the chagrin of spouses, children and roommates.  (I wrote about this in a previous blog post. Check it out.)

I do plan to take time this month to relax with my family and enjoy the warm weather. But I’m also excited to help launch the New York State breastfeeding collaborative as a personal recognition of National Breastfeeding Month. And, I’m thrilled to contribute to the collective knowledge of our expanding breastfeeding community for all those who continue this work in the future.

You can follow us along our journey here.


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