Carol Wolfenbarger: Mission Hospital McDowell on the Path to Become Certified as a Baby-Friendly Hospital

By Carol Wolfenbarger
Chief Executive Officer, Mission Hospital McDowell


Carol Wolfenbarger

One of the things I’m most proud about at our new Mission Hospital McDowell (MHM) is how we welcome expectant parents and their little ones. Our five state-of-the-art birthing suites were constructed with the goal of providing a family-centric experience while promoting the healthiest of beginnings for each bundle of joy as family bonding occurs. To demonstrate our commitment to enhancing the parents’ ability to care for their baby while promoting the best start for the baby, we’re pursuing an accreditation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital (B-FH).

What does this mean? The Baby-Friendly Initiative supports hospitals that prioritize and support breastfeeding for babies born in these facilities. This is especially appropriate in August as we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7. The movement dates back to 1991 when it was initiated as a global effort through the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

The clinical emphasis on breastfeeding is evidence-based. Countless scientific studies indicate that breastfeeding, especially exclusively for the first six months of life, enhances a baby’s current and future health. Although it isn’t always possible for a mom to breastfeed, studies show that there are numerous advantages if she can.

Breast milk is custom-designed, perfect nutrition for babies and rich in immune system-strengthening antibodies. Breastfed babies are at lower risk for asthma and allergies, and experience fewer illnesses like ear infections. Some studies show that babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life develop higher IQs and have a lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and future obesity. Finally, the mother-baby bond created from breastfeeding is important and strong.

Due to all of the positives that breastfeeding offers both moms and babies, we thought it important to set our sights on becoming a B-FH. The Baby-Friendly Initiative is built around broad but clearly defined goals created by the organization that also leads the certification effort, Baby Friendly, USA. To gain certification, a hospital must meet these guidelines:

Erika Moody, RN, IBCLC, is a Labor and Delivery nurse and Acting Lactation Consultant at MHM and shares that the hospital has been working toward its B-FH designation for two-and-a-half years. “Mission Hospital earned certification 10 years ago, and the goal was set for each sister hospital to become Baby-Friendly. Being Baby-Friendly allows us to more effectively help new moms, especially because we receive more than 20 hours of standardized education,” explains Moody. She notes that this is important, because patients can get discouraged and confused when they receive anecdotal or conflicting advice on breastfeeding. “Now,” she says, “moms will receive practical, clear and consistent communication about breastfeeding their babies.”

Moody explains that MHM is in the final stage of certification preparation. “We’ve initiated all the requirements to become Baby-Friendly; in September we’ll apply for a hospital evaluation, which will hopefully happen by the end of the year. We anticipate getting designated in 2020,” she says. Her hope is that becoming Baby-Friendly will bolster new moms’ confidence at a time when they need it. “Becoming a new parent is extremely emotional; it’s critical that our moms feel supported so they can enjoy the first experience with their newborn even more,” Moody says.

We’ll have great reason to celebrate when we reach this certification goal. It is our commitment to ensure that every baby in the community gets the strongest start possible.


Mission Hospital McDowell


Carol Wolfenbarger, MSN, RN, FACHE, is Chief Executive Officer of Mission Hospital McDowell. She holds both Bachelors and Masters of Science degrees in nursing administration from the University of Tennessee, is board certified in Healthcare Management and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). Carol, who has served hospitals and health systems for more than three decades, has worked to add full-time cardiology services, led growth in outpatient services including imaging and surgery, and the expansion of primary care offering in Burke County since assuming her role as President at McDowell Hospital in 2015. She is an active member in Rotary and serves as a Board member for the Rutherford/Polk/McDowell Health District Board of Directors, the Corpening YMCA Board of Directors, and the McDowell County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.