You know those traditional hospital nurseries with rows of newborn babies in identical bassinets? You won’t find one at IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Instead of being lined up behind glass, the newborns are snuggling with their mothers in a private room. Dad could be there, too, sleeping on a hide-a-bed, and, if Mom agrees, the tot’s siblings could be checking out their new brother or sister.

This practice, called “rooming in,” is just one of ten criteria the World Health Organization (WHO) used to certify IU Health as a “baby-friendly hospital,” a designation bestowed on only about 5 percent of U.S. hospitals, says Dana Watters, executive director of the hospital’s Women & Children’s Services. “We’re meant to be close to our mothers from birth…. A nurse in the delivery room ensures that mother and baby have skin-to-skin contact within thirty minutes, and a physician helps mothers initiate breast-feeding one hour after birth.”

Several of the WHO criteria emphasize the importance of breast-feeding. To be “baby friendly,” a hospital must have a written breast-feeding policy and train its staff to implement the policy. “Breast-feeding is the gold standard,” says Watters. “It’s the best nutrition for infants.” IU Health urges new mothers to use breast milk as the sole source of nutrition for a minimum of six months and to continue to nurse through the baby’s first year. All babies at IU Health are fed only breast milk, even premature and sick babies. Their mothers can provide the milk using a breast pump, and the hospital has a supply of donor milk as well. The hospital has trained lactation consultants on duty seven days a week to assist mothers during their stay and after they go home.

“The evidence is clear,” Watters says. “Breast-fed babies have better health and wellness outcomes.”

There is a great deal of support for breast-feeding in the Bloomington community, she says. IU Health’s work with local organizations—including Bloomington Area Birth Services; the Women, Infants, and Children program; Southern Indiana Pediatrics; and the La Leche League of Bloomington—helped to secure the WHO recognition. And the hospital’s campaign, Breastfeeding: Raising Awareness, Raising Healthy Babies, was such a success that nearly 100 area restaurants now display an international symbol of breast-feeding, announcing that they provide a welcoming environment for breast-feeding mothers and their babies.