Sunday, February 8, 2009

What is a baby-friendly hospital/birth center?

I'm doing this week's reading for my breastfeeding class - this week we're focusing on breastfeeding programming and policy. One of our readings is about the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. The campaign to make hospitals baby-friendly is worldwide, and in the U.S. people are, little by little, coming on board. Here are the steps:

1 - Maintain a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
2 - Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
3 - Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
4 - Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
5 - Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
6 - Give infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
7 - Practice “rooming in”-- allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
8 - Encourage unrestricted breastfeeding.
9 - Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
10 - Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic

Implied in step 6 is the responsibility of the facility to purchase the formula they use. (Did you know that much of the formula available in hospitals is gratis, courtesy of pharmaceutical companies? It's a huge marketing tool for them.) If formula supplementation is medically indicated, the hospital has to buy it as they would any other medicine or nutritional supplement. They also have to "ban the bags" - no bags full of free formula and formula coupons at discharge.

Reading over the 10 steps to being baby-friendly, it seems so simple and it's so hard to imagine all hospitals wouldn't already be doing these things! It's unfortunate that we have to create special initiatives to encourage hospitals to promote health.

If you're interested in learning more about the baby-friendly hospital initiative, check out Baby Friendly USA and the international UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative page.

No comments: