What is a “Baby Friendly” Hospital?
photo credit: victoryrosephotography
By Melissa Portunato MPH, IBCLC, RLC
You’ve learned about all the benefits of breastfeeding. You bought all your neat breastfeeding accessories, and breastpump. You are so ready for this! But wait. One more thing…is your maternity birth facility “Baby Friendly?” Where you deliver your little angel can impact your breastfeeding relationship long term and can even increase your chances of being successful. Read on as we share the facts about The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and why it’s important for you to be informed.
What is the BFHI?
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global initiative that was created in 1991 in response to lactation policy makers and the urgent need for better breastfeeding practices worldwide. BFHI was launched by UNICEF and The World Health Organization to ensure maternity facilities around the world become centers for breastfeeding support. BFHI mandates the implementing of tools and materials such as Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Hospitals that meet the global criteria and complete an external assessment of implementation receive the designation of “Baby Friendly.”
Why “Baby Friendly?”
If you are committed to breastfeeding and don’t have a lot of support, delivering at a designated baby friendly facility will help you get breastfeeding off to a good start. Baby-Friendly designated hospitals foster a supportive breastfeeding environment with practices such as: initiating breastfeeding within one hour after delivery, keeping mommy and baby together by “rooming in”, no offering of pacifiers or bottles unless medically necessary, and sharing of support resources at discharge. All hospital staff working with mothers and babies are required to take a breastfeeding class to be able to offer support. In the event that mother and baby are separated because of an unforeseen circumstance or emergency, mothers are taught how to maintain lactation during this time. Baby-friendly practices are evidence-based and allow for the very best start to the breastfeeding journey.
Where can I find a Baby-Friendly Facility?
Since its inception, over 15,000 facilities have been designated “Baby Friendly” in 134 countries. Specifically, in the US, there are currently 534 baby-friendly hospitals. In the areas where BFHI has been implemented breastfeeding rates are on the rise and in turn, provide long-term benefits to child health. Updates on BFHI as well as other effective breastfeeding programs are currently published and archived by UNICEF.
Are you pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant? It’s never too early to get informed and be prepared. Locate the nearest Baby Friendly Hospital near you here. Surrounding yourself with education and support resources from the beginning will set you up for success. Our IBCLCs are always available to answer your breastfeeding questions, offer advice and provide encouragement. At Spectra Baby USA we believe in breastfeeding and we believe in you!