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Baby-Friendly Hospitals: Choose Your Hospital As If Your Birth Depended on It

Not All Hospitals Meet the Baby Friendly Standards

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative was first launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). You might think that as an organization providing healthcare, that all hospitals would be friendly to babies. However there was and continues to be a difference in focus and level of care provided to babies and new mothers after delivery. 

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What is a Baby-Friendly Hospital?

A baby-friendly hospital is one who is trained to inform and guide mothers to breastfeed their children. These hospitals have staff and volunteers whose goal it is to educate mothers so that they are able to effectively and confidently breastfeed their babies beyond their initial hospitalization at the time of birth. 

The WHO and UNICEF have set up an accrediting body in 150 countries around the world. Baby-friendly hospitals now exist within all fifty states in the U.S. due to the work of Baby-Friendly USA (BFUSA). These facilities accounted for 28% of births in 2019. Refer here for stats.

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There are three basic tenants for Baby-Friendly USA and its accredited healthcare institutions. The first is that human milk is the most nourishing source of food for a baby, and it should be the primary source of nutrition whenever possible. The second is to protect the first few days of an infant and new mother’s life together from commercial influence IE formula manufacturers. And lastly is that mothers are provided with the education about direct breastfeeding and allowed to make their own choice regarding their baby’s nutrition.

What are the Benefits of a Baby-Friendly Hospital for Mom and Baby?

Mama and Baby Bonding

In Baby-friendly hospitals, babies are kept close to the mother after birth. The Golden Hour(s), where mother and baby are able to do uninterrupted skin to skin bonding, is encouraged. This not only helps to establish the bond between mother and baby, but also helps increase the success of breastfeeding. In other hospitals, babies might be taken for testing right at the time of birth. Baby-friendly hospitals have structured their care so that they can facilitate these tests with limited time away from the mother, and not right after birth.

Baby-Friendly Hospitals Facilitate the Golden Hour

Breastfeeding is Best But Not the Only Type of Feeding

In order to maintain this designation, these hospitals do not hand out formula samples, and are not allowed to receive formula as a donation or gift from any manufacturer. This doesn’t mean that these healthcare facilities do not have formula on hand, or will not respect a mother’s wish to formula feed her baby. When formula is necessary due to medical complications, treatment, or other scenarios, these hospitals are able to provide it but have to pay for it. Moms who deliver at these hospitals have the option to formula feed their baby -- the hospital will simply offer the benefits of breastfeeding as the first option. If you wish or need to use formula to feed your baby, speak to your healthcare provider ahead of time to help sort this out ahead of time.

Baby-Friendly Hospitals Support Mom and Baby, and What is Best.

Trained Staff and Volunteers

These hospitals have trained and certified staff on hand to help moms work through the early days of breastfeeding and work through potential difficulties. Labor and delivery nurses in these hospitals are trained to help moms make breastfeeding work, but they also have certified lactation professionals whose sole goal is to help educate and demonstrate breastfeeding advice, help, and information for new moms.

If you would like more information on the 10 steps baby-friendly hospitals adhere to you can click here.

How Do You Know Which Hospitals Are Baby Friendly?

BFUSA offers expecting parents a user-friendly interactive map to locate an accredited hospital near them. You can access this tool here. If you cannot access this map or aren’t sure if your specific hospital or healthcare system is accredited, you can ask your healthcare provider. There is also an alphabetical list by state available here. This accreditation often takes a number of years to achieve and is a big achievement, so your provider will know if they have undertaken or are in the process of undertaking this effort.

Find a Baby-Friendly Hospital near you

Benefitting Pumping Mamas

Hospitals who promote the benefits of breastfeeding are likely to support mothers who need to or chose to pump. After using the resources above to identify a baby-friendly hospital, contact the hospital to inquire about the resources available for moms who need or would like to use a breast pump. Many of these have hospital grade breast pumps on hand for you to use during your stay. If not, you will know if you have to bring your own pump. You can also ask if the staff at this hospital is able to help size you for breast pump flanges. If you know your flange size, you can confidently use BeauGen's Breast Pump Cushions.

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