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The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative: What You Can Expect

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The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a worldwide effort to promote hospitals and birthing centers that support, encourage, and protect breastfeeding.  The initiative aims to improve breastfeeding rates and promote mother/baby bonding.  The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative was launched by UNICEF and the World Health Organization in 1991.

What can you expect in a baby-friendly hospital?

  • At a baby-friendly facility, healthcare staff will only instruct parents to give newborns breast milk, unless it is medically necessary to do otherwise.  Staff will also stress that babies should avoid pacifiers.
  • Baby-friendly facilities are required to practice “rooming in.”  Staff will keep your baby in the room with you at all times.
  • Mothers at baby-friendly facilities will be instructed to initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth and will have immediate skin-to-skin contact with their babies.
  • Staff will show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation when separated from their infants.  Staff will encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • You will be referred to a breastfeeding support group upon discharge from the hospital.
  • You will not receive free samples of infant formula.

UNICEF shares some success stories on their website, including this one: "In Cuba, where 49 of the country's 56 hospitals and maternity facilities are baby-friendly, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding at four months almost tripled in six years - from 25 per cent in 1990 to 72 per cent in 1996."

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