Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies: A Program Supporting Breastfeeding Practices in Ohio Birthing Hospitals


  • Lydia Furman Department of Pediatrics, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital
  • Andrea Arendt Bureau of Maternal, Child and Family Health, Ohio Department of Health
  • Ryan Everett Institute for Health Innovation, Ohio Hospital Association
  • Breanne Haviland Bureau of Maternal, Child and Family Health, Ohio Department of Health
  • Michael Monsour Division of Reproductive Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Reena Oza-Frank Bureau of Maternal, Child and Family Health, Ohio Department of Health




Birthing hospitals, Breastfeeding protection, promotion and support, Maternity practices, Perinatal care, Program evaluation, Baby-friendly hospital initiative


Background: Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies (First Steps) is a free, voluntary statewide designation program coadministered by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association that promotes breastfeeding-supportive maternity practices aligned with the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
Materials and Methods: We examined Ohio birthing hospitals’ participation in First Steps, and changes in breastfeed-ing rates at hospital discharge, over the first 12 quarters of the program (July 15, 2015, to July 14, 2018) for all 110 licensed Ohio birthing hospitals. The 81 (73.6%) that achieved at least 1 step over the study period (designated as First Steps hospitals) were compared to the 29 non-First Steps hospitals, and the 17 that began participation at First Steps startup (July 15, 2015) were identified for additional analysis. Changes in breastfeeding rates were examined using a mixed effects multivariate regression model.
Results: Breastfeeding increased significantly over the program period from 73.8% to 76.7% (mean 0.19% per quarter, p = .0002), but without a significant difference in breastfeeding rates between First Steps and non-First Steps hospitals. However, in a pre- and post-program analysis for the 17 hospitals that began participation at First Steps startup (excluding an additional 6 hospitals with BFHI designation), number of quarters in the program, number of steps completed, and number of births in 2015 were significantly associated with breastfeeding rates. Hospitals that completed at least 2 steps every 5 quarters in the First Steps program increased breastfeeding when compared to those not participating in the program.
Conclusion: These encouraging results provide a formal evaluation of a best practices BFHI-modelled statewide program.


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