Aren't All Maternity Hospitals "Baby Friendly?"

You may have heard that HealthAlliance Hospital (Kingston, NY) is a Baby Friendly Hospital.

You may have questions about what that means. Aren't all maternity hospitals "baby friendly?" While the health care workers, staff and executives at your nearby hospital may love babies and be friendly, "Baby Friendly" means something deeper and more important.

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was formed to increase awareness and educate parents about the importance of breastfeeding, especially in the first hour after birth; to protect parents from predatory marketing and mis-education from hospital staff; to give parents all the professional support they might need as they begin their breastfeeding relationship; and to link families to breastfeeding support systems when they return home.

BFHI is founded on the ideal that all babies have the right to begin their life breastfeeding.

If after educating parents and allowing babies to initiate breastfeeding, the family decides to wean, then that is absolutely fine. Nobody is forcing you to breastfeed if you don't want to. The purpose of BFHI is to ensure that you are making an educated decision about how you feed your baby.

The BFHI decided on 10 principles which became "The Ten Steps To Successful Breastfeeding." and is adapted into "The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals," as outlined by United Nations International Child Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO.)

The 10 Steps as interpreted in the United States are:

  1. Have 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 newborn 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 clinic

A hospital goes through a several-year process of adopting the "Ten Steps" in coordination with BFHI.

This involves changing the organization of the hospital and the hospital policy. It's not an easy task to make institutional cha