Is Your Hospital Baby-Friendly?
“Your daughter is here!”
Is there any more beautiful moment for a new mother than holding your newborn for the first time? I will never forget the moment my doctor placed my new baby on my chest so I could gaze at her gorgeous dimples and hold her tiny fingers. My doctor and the staff in labor and delivery encouraged me to breastfeed her and hold her for quite a while—at least an hour—to help me get a jump start on that oh-so-important baby bonding.
This was quite different than my experience giving birth to my first baby. I was able to hold him for a few minutes, but they took him to another area of the room to check his reflexes and weigh him. He soon was taken to the nursery for more tests, accompanied by my sweet hubby, leaving me alone in the room less than an hour after pushing my baby out. In fact, the two experiences couldn't have been more different.
As I learned, there was a change in hospital policies in the past three years—a journey to baby-friendly designation. The BFHI is a global initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and challenges hospitals to increase the success rate of breastfeeding for women who give birth in the facilities. My hospital started their road to designation 18 months ago.
What makes a hospital “baby friendly” anyway? Here is a brief overview of the guidelines, what you can expect, and how to find out if your hospital is baby friendly.
A Baby-Friendly designation means your hospital encourages a healthy breastfeeding relationship between mother and child by allowing immediate bonding, training all staff on the benefits of breastfeeding, giving mothers access to breastfeeding support, and providing resources and adherence to 10 steps to successful breastfeeding specified by the Baby-Friendly Health Initiative. According to the Baby-Friendly USA website, these are the guidelines:
The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
- Train all healthcare 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 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 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 birth center.
The Baby-Friendly Health Initiative is endorsed by a variety of maternal and child health authorities, including the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and the US Surgeon General.
Hospitals create a plan to improve maternity care and encourage breastfeeding, then have an on-site visit and interview. If the facility is designated baby friendly, they are able to use the Baby-Friendly certification mark; advertise, and promote the facility as Baby-Friendly; and have their name listed on the website as a Baby-Friendly facility.
What Can You Expect?
My Baby-Friendly hospital experience was a great one. I felt completely supported during my 24 hours (yes, only 24 hours!) in the hospital. When my baby was having some trouble latching, I called in a lactation consultant to assist me. I got “the speech” from the first nurse about the importance of breastfeeding my baby, and I was provided some resources to help me—although, the second time around was much easier than the first.
The hospital had signs in each room that said S2S, which stands for “skin to skin”—holding your diapered baby to your bare chest to help warm and comfort your nursling in the first few weeks of her life. The signs were a constant reminder of the importance of keeping your child close to help enhance breastfeeding.
My baby stayed in my room the entire time I was in the hospital—not only to sleep and to nurse, but for all the tests, weighing, and measurement. There wasn't a moment I wasn't with my baby. Keeping her close allowed me to nurse on demand and helped us to bond.
All these things fit in with the guidelines through the Baby-Friendly Health Initiative, and if your chosen hospital is part of the initiative, you can expect similar processes and experiences.
Finding a facility
Hospitals and birth centers can both get Baby-Friendly designation. In the United States, 175 hospitals and birth centers have a Baby-Friendly designation, according to the Baby Friendly USA website. About 6.9% of births occur in Baby-Friendly designated facilities. The goal for the organization is 8.1%.
Is your chosen hospital a Baby-Friendly designated facility? You can search for facilities here.Read More