The Baby - Friendly Hospital Initiative 

March 25, 2009

One of the many decisions you will have to make while pregnant is where to have your baby. Though there is much to be said for giving birth at home, the majority of women in Western society choose to give birth in a hospital. When choosing a hospital you need to consider both birthing options and post partum care. The hospital is where you will embark on your breastfeeding relationship with your infant. Unfortunately, many hospitals employ routines that actually discourage breastfeeding.

In 1991 the WHO (World Health Organization) and UNICEF (United Nation's Children's Fund) developed the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). The main goal of the BFHI is to encourage maternity services to be more supportive of breastfeeding and to provide an environment in which breastfeeding can succeed. 

In order for a hospital to become certified as baby friendly they can not accept free low cost breast milk substitutes, bottles or teats and must implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

The 10 Steps are all scientifically proven to improve breastfeeding outcomes. They are:

1. Each hospital must have a written breastfeeding policy that is adhered to by the entire health care staff.

2. All health care staff must be trained with the skills to implement the breastfeeding policy.

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

4. Mothers must be helped to initiate breastfeeding within a half hour after birth.

5. Mothers must be shown how to breastfeed and maintain lactation even in the event that they must be separated from their babies.

6. Newborn infants receive no food or drink besides breast milk unless medically indicated.

7. Allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.

8. Mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their babies "on - demand."

9. Medical staff should not give breastfeeding infants any artificial nipples including pacifiers (also known as dummies)

10. Hospitals should encourage the development of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them before they leave the hospital.

Hospitals designated baby-friendly have been assessed by an outside team and awarded the designation. Since the beginning of the BFHI, more than 15,000 hospitals and birthing centers in 134 countries have been awarded Baby Friendly status. Choosing a Baby-Friendly facility in which to have your baby will give you a head start to breastfeeding and your newborn the friendliest start to life.

 

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