The Baby Friendly Hospital designation was developed by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to encourage and support breastfeeding in hospitals and maternity wards. In Canada, the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada is the national authority for the initiative. Since 1991, to obtain the "baby-friendly" certification, each hospital must, in addition to not accepting free or low-cost substitutes for breast milk, bottles or nipples, meet these ten conditions (taken from the website of the CHUM, which has not yet obtained certification):
The 10 conditions for breastfeeding success
1. Adopt a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all caregivers and volunteers.
2. Equip all healthcare staff with the skills to implement this policy.
3. Inform all pregnant women and their families of the benefits of breastfeeding.
4. Help mothers start breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.
5. Instruct mothers on how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infant.
6. Do not give newborns any food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
7. Practice cohabitation – leaving the child with his mother 24 hours a day.
8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
9. Do not give breastfed infants artificial teats or pacifiers.
10. Encourage the establishment of breastfeeding support associations and encourage mothers to visit them as soon as they leave the hospital or clinic.
Just reading these ten criteria for becoming baby-friendly makes me emotional this morning, probably because I have so many flashbacks to the first few days after my daughter was born these days 🙂
The implementation of the “Baby Friendly” certification has had many positive impacts over the past twenty years. When a hospital is certified as Baby-Friendly, breastfeeding success rates increase significantly, not only for the first few days after birth, but also 4, 6 and 12 months after. In the same way, the health of mothers and babies improves and there is a reduction in cases of dehydration, diarrhea and mortality rates where the program is implemented.
The UNICEF website gives this example of success (among many others):
The Catholic University of Chile in Santiago implemented one of the first baby-friendly hospitals. Result: the number of women breastfeeding during the first two hours has increased. With good implementation of step 10 of the program and monthly visits, exclusive breastfeeding at six months increased from around 20% to over 60%.
This list of hospitals is good to have in mind if you are at the stage of choosing your hospital for childbirth. If it has already passed, keep it in mind for the next child. Chances are the list will grow and the hospital near you will begin the process of obtaining certification, given the importance of breastfeeding to public health. It is clearly to the advantage of the health system to promote breastfeeding!