What does being a “Baby-Friendly Hospital” mean?
The Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global effort by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding. It aims to ensure that all maternities, whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support. Hospitals and maternity units set a powerful example for new mothers.
The “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” developed by UNICEF and WHO are the foundation of the BFHI to ensure maternity services are providing the right start for every infant and the necessary support for mothers to breastfeed. A maternity facility can be designated ‘baby-friendly’ when it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, undergone a rigorous on-site survey and has implemented these 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated.
- Practice “rooming in” – allowing mothers and infants to remain together – 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand – whenever the baby is hungry.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
Today this check-list is used by hospitals in more than 150 countries. In 2009, St. Joseph Hospital became the first hospital in Orange County to be designated as “Baby Friendly” with Hoag Memorial Presbyterian Hospital following soon after in the same year.