Premier first in Ohio to reach maternity care milestone

DAYTON — Premier Health is the first health system in Ohio whose maternity centers have completed all steps of a statewide breastfeeding initiative aimed at reducing the state’s high infant mortality rate.

The initiative, Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies, was launched by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Hospital Association.

Among the hospitals recognized for achieving all steps in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding are Miami Valley Hospital, with an additional site at Miami Valley Hospital South; Good Samaritan Hospital; Atrium Medical Center; and Upper Valley Medical Center. Some of the steps include helping mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth, as well as giving newborns no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated.

“This distinction shows what teamwork and perseverance can accomplish,” said Teri Gulker, director of nursing at Good Samaritan Hospital and Upper Valley Medical Center. “This initiative is paying dividends for babies and their mothers throughout the Miami Valley, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

About 61 percent of mothers exclusively breastfed their infants in the days following delivery at Premier Health hospitals in 2016, significantly above the state average rate of 52 percent at hospital discharge.

“Breast milk benefits babies with its mix of nutrients, protein and fat,” said Marc Belcastro, DO, chief medical officer at Miami Valley Hospital. “It’s easily digestible, and its anti-infective properties help newborns fend off infection.”

Asthma, allergies, respiratory illness and ear infections also occur less frequently in babies that are breastfed, Belcastro said. And research suggests that breastfeeding lowers the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and other medical conditions.

The benefits don’t end there. Breastfeeding also boosts the health of mothers, helping them lose pregnancy weight more quickly while reducing their risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Premier Health’s hospitals also have removed free infant formula samples and formula company-branded diaper bags from their facilities. The hospitals have been recognized as “bag-free” facilities by First Steps for Healthy Babies in partnership with the Ohio Breastfeeding Alliance and the Ohio Lactation Consultant Association.

“First Steps is proud to recognize the commitment of Premier Health for the great work to support and promote breastfeeding,” said Ryan Everett, director of population health for the Ohio Hospital Association. “Through active participation in programs like First Steps, Ohio hospitals are engaging

patients and the community as partners to improve the health and wellness of moms and babies across the state.”

In recognition of the importance of these programs, Premier Health offers lactation consultants and other resources to assist mothers one-on-one or through breastfeeding classes.

For more information about Premier Health’s services, visit, or call 937-208-BABY to register for classes. For more information about Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies, visit