In December, 2005, the Alabama Department of Public Health Perinatal Division met with a large group of obstetricians, maternal-fetal specialists, neonatologist, pediatricians, and representatives from Alabama ACOG, AAP and AAFP. The meeting was co-sponsored by the March of Dimes and Medela.
The purpose of the meeting was to address the state of breastfeeding in Alabama and to make suggestions for ways to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in our state. Establishing methods of data collections, applying recommendations related to breastfeeding as established in Perinatal Guidelines, and establishment of a statewide breastfeeding committee, utilizing the same attendees from this initial meeting.
Dr. Lewis Doggett was elected as the first chairperson for the Alabama Breastfeeding Committee (ABC). An Executive Board was elected, and committee designations were assigned.
Regional breastfeeding groups were formed in each Perinatal Region in the state and were managed by the Perinatal Coordinator for that region.
Over the next years, work continued in these specified areas. It was quickly found that in order to operate, funding was necessary, and ABC soon received designated grants to complete the work.
Out of necessity, ABC applied for and received non-profit status in order to maintain control of their project money.
Due to changes in the Perinatal Coordinator’s job description, facilitation of regional meetings was shifted to the local membership and regional meetings began to fail.
At this point in time, Dr. Doggett stepped back as the active chair and the Executive Board elected Dr. Joshua Johanson as the new chair.
Many of the initiatives began to have a direct effect on raising the breastfeeding rates in Alabama. Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center (Anniston) became the first Baby Friendly Hospital in the state, under the direction of Dr. Lewis Doggett, Nurse Manager Shelley Birchfield, and IBCLCs Kim Hurst and Jennifer Gallahar. Over the next few years, UAB, East Alabama Regional Medical Center (Opelika), Madison Hospital (Madison), North Baldwin Infirmary (Bay Minette), Monroe County Hospital (Monroeville), and Princeton Baptist Medical Center (Birmingham) earned Baby Friendly status.
During this period, Dr. Johanson requested inactive status as Chairperson and Gayle Whatley was elected as chair.
Due to the expense required to become Baby Friendly facility, ABC decided to follow other states in developing it’s on hospital recognition program. Representatives from all Baby Friendly facilities formed a committee to further develop this program. Surveys from hospitals across the state confirmed that most of them could not apply for Baby Friendly USA due to the expense involved and giving up free formula furnished by various formula companies. Guidelines were developed to match the 10 steps to Baby Friendly, except for the monetary issues involved. Safe Sleep education was added to the 7 steps, due to the high rate of sleep related deaths in Alabama. This program was called Better Bama Babies (BBB). Brookwood Medical Center was the first hospital to become a BBB facility, followed by Madison Hospital, Northeast Alabama Regional Medical Center, North Baldwin Infirmary, and Monroe County Hospital. Funding was received over a three year period from the Caring Foundation of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama. The following groups became supporters of BBB: the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Medicaid, Alabama Academy of Pediatrics, Alabama chapter of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, the March of Dimes, and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrical and Neonatal Nurses.
Other key programs associated with ABC is the Breastfeeding Friendly Childcare Center program, which is administered by the Alabama Extension Service, and Breastfeeding Friendly Businesses.