The Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) is an international program of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The Initiative aims to give every baby the best start in life by creating a health care environment in which breastfeeding is the norm and practices known to promote the health and well-being of all babies and their mothers are followed.
Hospitals that have implemented the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding create an optimal environment for the initiation of breastfeeding.
The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
Every facility providing maternity services and care for newborn infants should:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding
- Place babies in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour and encourage mothers to recognise when their babies are ready to breastfeed, offering help if needed.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants
- Give newborn 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 artificial teats or dummies to breastfeeding infants
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support and refer mothers on discharge from the facility.
Check the Baby Friendly Health Initiative Australia website to see if your local hospital has baby-friendly accreditation.
Recently, a 7 point plan for Community Health Centres has been developed. The implementation of this by community health centres will aid in working toward increasing the rate of exclusivity and the duration of breastfeeding in Australia.
The 7 Point Plan for Community Health Centres:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff and volunteers
- Educate all health care staff in the knowledge and skills necessary to implement the breastfeeding policy
- Inform women and their families about breastfeeding being the biologically normal way to feed a baby and about the risks associated with not breastfeeding
- Inform women and their families about the management of breastfeeding and support them to establish and maintain exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months
- Encourage sustained breastfeeding beyond six months with appropriate introduction of complementary foods
- Provide a welcoming atmosphere for breastfeeding families
- Promote collaboration between health care staff and volunteers, breastfeeding support groups and the local community in order to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.
How can you help?
If your local hospital or community health service does not have BFHI accreditation, why not write them a letter to suggest that they gain it? Click on the file below to download a sample letter to get you on your way!