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At Motherlove, we strongly support the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. We think that every expecting mom who is planning a hospital birth should know about Baby Friendly Hospitals, so we thought we’d answer a few common questions here:
What is a Baby Friendly Hospital?
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a program sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to encourage and recognize hospitals that provide evidence-based breastfeeding care.
A Baby Friendly Hospital is one which has been certified as fully complying with the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. To become Baby Friendly, hospitals undergo a lengthy certification process and an independent evaluation to determine that they have met all of the Baby Friendly criteria.
What are the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding?
To become Baby Friendly, hospitals must demonstrate that they comply with the following evidence-based policies:
What difference does it make if I birth at a Baby Friendly Hospital or somewhere else?
Research has repeatedly shown that mothers who birth at Baby Friendly hospitals are more likely to breastfeed, breastfeed longer, and breastfeed more exclusively. That’s because the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are based on research showing which policies support - and which undermine - breastfeeding. So, while it’s certainly possible to breastfeed successfully if you don’t birth at a Baby Friendly Hospital, you will probably encounter far fewer barriers to meeting your breastfeeding goals if you birth at one.
How can I find a Baby Friendly Hospital near me?
As of December, 2011, there were 125 Baby Friendly Hospitals in the U.S. You can find a complete list of them here.
Many hospitals are in the process of becoming Baby Friendly, and the Centers for Disease Control recently announced that they’ll be supporting the certification of many more. Kaiser Permanente also recently announced an initiative to make many of their hospitals Baby Friendly.
What can I do if I don’t live near a Baby Friendly Hospital, or my insurance limits my options?
Sadly, many mothers don’t live near a Baby Friendly hospital. The CDC estimates that only 5% of all births occurs at a Baby Friendly Hospital today. And the unfortunate truth is that most hospitals don’t meet the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. In 2009, for example, only one in three hospitals reported to the CDC that they practicing rooming in (Step 7).
This is changing, but if you’re pregnant now you can’t exactly wait! So what can you do if you can’t birth at a Baby Friendly Hospital but want the best breastfeeding care you can get?