UTMB alumna Barbara Sasser and her husband, Dominick Sasser.The Sasser Family Foundation has contributed $125,000 to UTMB for its ongoing effort to earn a Baby-Friendly Hospital designation, considered the ideal standard in the care of infants and mothers.  

The contribution will allow UTMB to implement breastfeeding practices that improve patients’ health while also reducing health care costs. The initiative mirrors practices that many other hospitals have adopted, which have led to an increase in breastfeeding rates.

“The Sasser Family Foundation’s generous gift will play a tremendous role in our ability to promote breastfeeding,” said Dr. David L. Callender, UTMB’s president. “The Baby-Friendly Hospital designation will signify our deep commitment to improving the health and well-being of our youngest patients for generations to come.”
The foundation’s contribution will provide staff training, equipment and supplies that will position UTMB to receive the designation, part of the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization’s global initiative to promote breastfeeding. Considerable evidence indicates breastfeeding lowers risks for certain diseases and improves the health of both infants and mothers.
UTMB alumna Barbara Sasser and her husband, Dominick Sasser, established the Sasser Foundation several years ago. 
“The reason we gave to UTMB is because we live in Galveston and we believe in UTMB,” said Barbara Sasser, who holds a doctoral degree in biochemistry. “This is also an area of medicine that affects everybody and has significant long-term health benefits.”
Dominick Sasser added: “This is not just a mother’s issue — it’s a family issue.”
The Sassers have been longtime proponents of breastfeeding in their personal lives and as a public health initiative. All three of their children were breastfed, and Barbara Sasser was a La Leche League International leader for many years.
With the foundation’s support, UTMB recently launched its Baby-Friendly initiative and are emphasizing practices that promote breastfeeding among its patients. Such practices include placing infants in “skin-to-skin contact” with their mothers immediately after childbirth, considered the initial step toward breastfeeding. UTMB no longer provides formula to parents when they leave the hospital after childbirth.
A newly released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that, like UTMB, more hospitals are implementing these key maternity practices, which have resulted in an increase in breastfeeding rates over the past decade.
According to the CDC, the percentage of babies breastfeeding at six months increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010. The report also indicates:
  • The percentage of babies breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 16 percent to 27 percent during that same time period. Babies who started breastfeeding increased from 71 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2010.
  • The percentage of hospitals reporting newborn babies who “room in” with their mother at least 23 hours per day increased from about 30 percent in 2007 to 37 percent in 2011. 
  •  The percentage of hospitals where most newborns were skin-to-skin with their mother after birth climbed from about 41 percent in 2007 to over 54 percent in 2011.
UTMB also has made a commitment to its employees who nurse by providing space where they can express and store breast milk. In March, UTMB was recognized as a Mother-Friendly Worksite by the Texas Department of State Health Services. UTMB also is seeking to earn a designation from the state for its breastfeeding initiative and be named a Texas Ten Step facility, a key step in acquiring Baby-Friendly status.
For more information about the Baby-Friendly Hospital designation, go onto www.babyfriendlyusa.org.
For more information about the state’s Texas Ten Step facility program, visit the program’s site at texastenstep.org.
The CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card can be found at www.cdc.gov.