What is a Baby-Friendly Hospital?
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The initiative’s goal is to improve health outcomes for mothers and babies through breastfeeding and immediate skin-to-skin bonding.
Baby-Friendly hospitals are staffed with lactation consultants who assist mothers in gaining the skills and confidence they need to breastfeed both during their hospital stay and after they are discharged. Our lactation boutiques are stocked with breastfeeding products and supplies that can be used during and after a hospital birth.
Other important practices of Baby-Friendly hospitals include encouraging skin-to-skin contact between mothers and newborns and 'rooming in.' Both practices encourage bonding and improve the newborn’s ability to breastfeed. Studies also show that immediate skin-to-skin contact help newborns maintain their temperature better normalize heart and breathing rates and reduce their likeliness of crying.
There are 3,200 birthing hospitals and centers in the United States and fewer than 200 are designated Baby-Friendly.
Steps to receiving Baby-Friendly designation include:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
- Train all healthcare staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice rooming in, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
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