The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative

Current research has left no doubt that breastfeeding is healthier for both babies and their mothers. Despite this, many babies are not being breastfed. In an attempt to raise breastfeeding rates world wide, the Who Health Organization, (WHO), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have developed the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

The Role of the Hospital

Almost all mothers are physically able to breastfeed their babies but need the proper environment in which to do so. Since most babies are born in the hospital, the hospitals need to provide a supportive setting allowing mothers and babies to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Too often hospital policies actually work against breastfeeding. Routine separation of mothers and babies and scheduled feeds are two prime examples. Hospitals are often guilty of pushing artificial baby milks, specifically those brands that provide the hospital with gifts. Members of the health care staff are often unable to help mothers breastfeed their newborns and may even give incorrect information.

The 10 Steps

For a hospital to be considered "baby friendly" it must fulfill 10 requirements. Each of these requirements is research based and proven to improve breastfeeding outcomes.

1. The hospital must have a written breastfeeding policy that is known by all health care staff.

2. The health care staff must be trained to implement the breastfeeding policy.

3. All pregnant women must be informed about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.

4. Mothers are to be helped to initiate breastfeeding within one hour after birth.

5. Mothers are taught how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation if they are separated from their babies.

6. Infants are not to be given any food or drink besides breastmilk unless medically indicated.

7. Mothers and babies should be together 24 hours a day, i.e. rooming in.

8. Unrestricted breastfeeding is to be encouraged.

9. Breastfeeding infants are not to be given any artificial nipples including pacifiers.

10.The hospital should foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them  before they leave the hospital.

Baby Friendly hospitals must also follow the WHO Code for the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, which includes neither accepting gifts from formula companies or giving them to the mothers.

Best For Everyone

In a baby friendly facility you will be able to hold your baby skin to skin immediately after birth for as long as you want and enjoy rooming in with your baby 24 hours a day no matter how you decide to feed. Mothers who choose to breastfeed will be given accurate information, appropriate help and a supportive environment. Baby friendly truly is a friendlier start for mother and baby. You can find a baby friendly facility near you by looking at the baby friendly website.

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