What is a "Baby-Friendly®" Hospital?

“Baby-Friendly®” is a phrase expectant parents may encounter when touring and choosing between prospective birth locations. The World Health Organization and UNICEF created the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, or BFHI, more than twenty years ago as part of their “global effort to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding.” All over the world, researchers are noting the positive effects that this initiative is having for mothers and babies when it comes to meeting breastfeeding goals.

When a hospital or birthing facility has effectively implemented the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, then that institution is designated as officially “Baby-Friendly®.” This initiative assists hospitals in providing the information, confidence, and skills that mothers need to breastfeed their babies successfully or feed formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done this.

What are the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” according to the BFHI?

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.

  2. Train all healthcare staff in the 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 breastfeeding on demand.

  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 birth center.

What does the “International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes” require?

  1. No advertising of breastmilk substitutes to families.

  2. No free samples or supplies in the healthcare system.

  3. No promotion of products through health care facilities, including no free or low-cost formula.

  4. No contact between marketing personnel and mothers.

  5. No gifts or personal samples to health workers.

  6. No words or pictures idealizing artificial feeding, including pictures of infants, on the labels or product.

  7. Information to health workers should be scientific and factual only.

  8. All information on artificial feeding, including labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding.

  9. Unsuitable products should not be promoted for babies.

  10. All products should be of high quality and take account of the climate and storage conditions of the country where they are used.

What does “Baby-Friendly®” mean for you and your baby?

At a Baby-Friendly® hospital or birth center, you can expect to find a well-trained staff that is ready to support you in achieving your breastfeeding goals. This is great news for mothers who plan to breastfeed, as support and education have a direct impact on breastfeeding success. It’s important to keep in mind though that every institution and individual who works there is unique and therefore it’s still important to make your preferences known. No label or designation is a substitute for your own knowledge and preparation. For example, even though helping mothers to breastfeed within the first hour of birth should be standard practice at a Baby-Friendly® hospital, make sure that the nursing staff knows that  this is important to you. Similarly, taking a breastfeeding class will help you fully prepare to meet your baby’s needs and learn ways to prevent or overcome difficulties you may face.

Whether or not a hospital or birthing center is designated “Baby-Friendly®” is just one factor in your decision about where to give birth. It’s important to also consider the culture of the establishment and the care providers to ensure that they align with your values and goals for birth.

Want to learn more about achieving a successful breastfeeding relationship? Click to find more breastfeeding articles and resources that are suitable for Baby-Friendly® facilities from Plumtree Baby.

1 “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.” World Health Organization
2 “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.” Baby Friendly USA.

Jennifer Stutzman, Freelance Writer

Disclaimer: All content provided is for educational and informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease and no alterations in lifestyle should be taken solely on the contents of this website. Consult your physician on any topics regarding your health and pregnancy. Plumtree Baby, LLC does not assume any liability for the information contained herein, be it direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary or other damages.

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