The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce infant hospitalizations and pediatric clinic visits.
Baby-Friendly hospitals and birth centers also uphold the WHO International code of marketing of breast milk substitutes by offering education and educational materials that promote human milk rather than other infant food or drinks and by refusing to accept or distribute free or subsidized supplies of breast milk substitutes, nipples and other feeding devices.
In addition to focusing on making breastfeeding a viable option for new mothers, baby-friendly care also encourages mothers and newborns to be together 24 hours a day. This promotes bonding, improves feeding and weight gain for healthier babies, and allows for better sleep for both mother and child.
Why It Is Important to Exclusively Breastfeed for the First Six Months
Breastmilk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness. Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, promotes weight loss following delivery, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding, and is safe for the environment.
Breastmilk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life.
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, WHO and UNICEF recommend:
- Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
- Exclusive breastfeeding – the infant should receive only breastmilk without any additional food or drink for the first six months of life
- Breastfeeding on demand – increases and maintains the mother’s milk supply. Breastfed babies should be fed on demand, a minimum of 8 times per day for the first 2-3 weeks
- No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers for the first 4 weeks of life. Bottle-feeding and pacifiers will interfere with learning how to breastfeed.
While in the hospital, ways to get breastfeeding off to a good start include:
- Early and on-going skin–to–skin contact between mother and baby
- Early and frequent feedings
- Night Feedings
- Water or formula supplementation for medical indications only
- 24 hour rooming-in with frequent feedings on cue
- Limited separation of mother and baby
- Suckling unlimited by the clock
- Teaching the mother about infant behavior and breastfeeding management
- Learning feeding cues
- Education about the advantages of breastfeeding
For more information on how NYS supports your decision to breastfeeding click www.nysbreastfeeding.org