Are you planning to breast feed your newborn infant? If so, there is a designation given to hospitals that you may want to be aware of: Baby Friendly.
In 1991 The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched. This initiative is an international program sponsored by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to encourage maternity care centers and hospitals to become fully supportive of breastfeeding. The BFHI gives special recognition i.e. a Baby Friendly Designation to facilities that provide a certain level of breast feeding support and meet certain criterion. Baby-Friendly USA oversees the United State's BFHI.
The ten steps to receive the Baby Friendly Designation are:
1. Maintain a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
7. Practice rooming in-- allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
8. Encourage unrestricted breastfeeding.
9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic
There are some facilities that may advertise a certificate of intent. It is important to distinguish between a facility that has received the full Baby Friendly designation versus one that has simply received a Certificate of Intent. According to BFHI: "Certificates of Intent are given out on an honor system... Receiving the Certificate of Intent is not equivalent to receiving the Baby-Friendly designation, but rather recognizes those US hospitals and birthing centers that are working toward applying the Ten Steps."
As of December 2009, there were 86 Facilities in the United States with the Baby Friendly designation. Most people already know that there are many benefits to breast feeding. Research also shows that there are many benefits received from using Baby Friendly Hospitals. To learn more about the benefits, and to see if the hospital where you plan to birth has been given the Baby Friendly Designation visit the BFHI official website: http://www.babyfriendlyusa.org.