Hospitals have a lot of influence over mothers and their ability to breastfeed. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a program from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) designed to help hospitals maximize their ability to help mothers breastfeed. The ten steps to become designated a baby friendly hospital are:
- Maintain a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care 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 infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice “rooming in”-- allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage unrestricted breastfeeding.
- 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
The more steps that your hospital follows, even if they do not yet have this designation, the more likely you are to succeed in breastfeeding. Be sure to ask your hospital what they can do to help you breastfeed.
You may also want to read about the five myths of baby friendly hospitals.