Marie's Outlook

What to Leave Out of Your Hospital Breastfeeding Policy

I’ve warned against writing long-winded, rambling policies. I’ve tackled the “bare bones” of what you need to include in your policy statement. But what is the “fat” that’s often included in such policies, that needs to be trimmed? What do you need to leave out?

Read on for suggestions about what your policy is better off without.

hospital_building· Flowery Terms and Phrases. Seriously. Do you walk into McDonald’s and see a sign that says, “We are committed to the creating an environment that helps all customers who wish to achieve and maintain optimal health. We recognize the challenges of having a meal or a cup of coffee without a cigarette, but we believe everyone can create a new habit. We have provided receptacles outside where you can deposit your butts.” No! you see a simple sign reading: “This McDonald’s is a no-smoking facility.” Bam! That says it all.

By the same token, skip all of that protect, promote and support lingo and any flowery language. Just get the point.

· Trade Names. Trade names have no place in a policy. A policy is a statement of “this is our stance on how we do things here.” Unless a specific brand name is necessary for your outcome, use a generic term or a broader term. For example, to avoid using the trade name “Supplemental Nursing System,” you could say “nursing supplementer.” If you want to go broader—which is my recommendation—you can say “an alternative feeding device.”

· Extraneous Topics. People repeatedly tell me that their lengthy breastfeeding policy is necessary in order to include everything that is required for the Baby-Friendly approval, but their policies include all sorts of topics and directives that are not required by Baby-Friendly.
Remember: Baby-Friendly is a global initiative; resource-poor countries could never be designated as Baby-Friendly if they needed to have our fancy bells and whistles. Check your policy. If you have included information about using shells, shields, commercial bags designed to sterilize pump parts, nipple everters, or any of that, you have addressed topics that are not required.

Simply put, the policy is written to achieve a goal. Gadgets and gizmos, while perhaps part of your arsenal for achieving the goal for exclusive breastfeeding, are not critical.

If you feel you must include this information, you could briefly mention it in the context of the hospital’s position on its use. An example might be, “Shields may not be given without a consult from the lactation consultant.” That’s plenty.

· Procedural Directives. A policy is not a “how to” manual. A policy might state that milk expression must be initiated within 6 hours if the baby is in the NICU. (Note, for example, this addresses “expression,” rather than “pumping.”)
If you are creating a step-by-step directive for how to use a pump (including teaching points for the parents, etc.) that is a procedure—not a policy.

· Non-Breastfeeding Directives in a Breastfeeding Policy. I just reviewed a hospital “policy” that used at least 200 words to describe how to label expressed milk. Then, it had another 200 words on how to store the milk, dispose of unused milk, and much more. This is not a breastfeeding topic. This topic is about the collection and storage of human milk. It is not required by Baby-Friendly and should not be in your breastfeeding policy.

I’m not saying that this information isn’t important—it is! What I am saying that it is not “breastfeeding,” and it is not “policy.” It’s not part of the Ten Steps, and therefore not part of the Baby-Friendly process. It’s an entirely separate topic.

Most of these non-breastfeeding issues are best handled by creating a separate policy and/or a procedure. No, no, you protest! My boss says we need to put all of the breastfeeding stuff into the breastfeeding policy. Respectfully, but vehemently I disagree with your boss!

Remember the purpose of your policy.  If your content doesn’t support the purpose of your policy, it doesn’t belong there.

So lay it on me! What is in your policy that shouldn’t be there? I’m curious! Comment below.

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