Pennsylvania Department of Health Recognizes Allegheny Health Network’s Women’s Institute for Excellence in Breastfeeding Support

Updated on December 18, 2023

Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Women’s Institute announced today that its labor and delivery programs at AHN West Penn and AHN Wexford hospitals have been recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) for excellence in breastfeeding support to new birthing parents and their families. 

These programs now join AHN Forbes and Jefferson hospitals as designated Keystone 10 facilities for their leading care, as well as their ongoing efforts to promote and support breastfeeding. 

The Pennsylvania DOH developed the Keystone 10 quality initiative to assist birthing hospitals in implementing evidence-based maternity care practice, with a goal of improving breastfeeding care and rates, and ultimately improving the health of mothers and babies. Participating facilities focus on breastfeeding initiation, staff training, exclusive breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact and rooming-in, among other elements.

“At AHN West Penn, the network’s flagship facility for maternity care, we offer comprehensive prenatal breastfeeding classes, access to certified lactation consultants, phone consultations, mandatory education for nurses, obstetricians and pediatricians, post-discharge support, and promotion of 24-hour rooming in,” said Shelley Taft, MSN, RN, IBCLC and manager of maternal child support services at AHN West Penn. “We’re extremely proud of today’s recognition as it’s a testament to our team’s ongoing dedication and commitment to the positive benefits of breastfeeding for both birthing parent and child.”

Birthing parents who choose to breastfeed give their babies a healthy start that lasts a lifetime. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, benefits of breastfeeding include a lower risk of childhood obesity, sudden infant death, asthma, type 2 diabetes, and many other diseases and conditions. Breastfeeding has benefits for the birthing parent, too — it can reduce the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

In the United States, more than 80% of newborns receive breastmilk but only 26% of babies are exclusively breastfed by the 6-month mark.

The AHN Wexford team achieved all 10 steps in the path to Keystone 10 designation in just under two years; the effort began just after the hospital’s official opening in September 2021. To date, the bustling labor and delivery program has welcomed more than 2,900 babies into the world and announced an expansion of pediatric inpatient care for children with acute medical needs and/or following elective procedures.  

“This outstanding Keystone 10 achievement demonstrates a truly remarkable team effort by our leading OBGYNs, pediatricians, nursing managers and lactation consultants,” said Alycia Kerstetter, MSN, nursing manager at AHN Wexford’s Women and Infant’s Center. “This dedicated team delivers expert, family-centered care that gives birthing parents and their newborns the best start at a healthy future.”

Across all AHN labor and delivery programs, caregivers provide support to facilitate skin-to-skin care following all births, including immediately in the operating room for babies delivered via cesarean. Certified lactation consultants round in postpartum and neonatal units, as well, to provide one-on-one counseling with birthing parents to provide guidance on latching, feeding positions and milk production. 

“The benefits of breastfeeding continue to be evident with clinical research – however, not all mothers may be able to breastfeed, for a variety of reasons. At AHN, we support our patients in all circumstances – what’s most important is that baby is getting adequate nutrition and families’ desired health goals are being met,” said Joseph Aracri, DO, Chair of AHN Pediatric Institute.

For those who may need an extra layer of support or continue to face lactation challenges, AHN offers consultations and personalized appointments with board-certified lactation consultations. 

Support services are available by calling 412-578-7030 (AHN West Penn) or 878-231-5303 (AHN Wexford).

About Allegheny Health Network: 

Allegheny Health Network (AHN.org) is an integrated healthcare delivery system serving the greater Western Pennsylvania region.  The Network is composed of 14 hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, Health + Wellness Pavilions, multiple employed physician organizations, home and community based health services, a research institute, and a group purchasing organization. The Network provides patients with access to a complete spectrum of advanced medical services, including nationally recognized programs for primary and emergency care, trauma care, cardiovascular disease, organ transplantation, cancer care, orthopedic surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, women’s health, diabetes, autoimmune disease and more.  AHN employs approximately 22,000 people, has more than 2,600 physicians on its medical staff and serves as a clinical campus for Drexel University College of Medicine and the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.  

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