If you are planning to breastfeed, birthing your baby in a hospital with a Baby Friendly designation can be beneficial when compared to birthing in a hospital that is not Baby Friendly. In spite of the benefits of Baby Friendly, however, it is important to realize that this designation gives you no information about a hospital's labor and delivery practices. Many families unfortunately get lured into thinking Baby Friendly somehow translates into Mother Friendly. The truth is it doesn't. Baby Friendly does NOT mean Mother Friendly.
The focus of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is to promote BREAST FEEDING. Nothing in the steps to becoming a Baby Friendly hospital say anything about labor or birth. Fortunately, in 1996, the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) along with 31 individuals and 26 organizations ratified the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative (MFCI). The CIMS "mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs."
The MFCI has identified ten steps that make maternity care Mother Friendly and promotes normal birth. These ten steps include, among other things, offering all birthing mothers unrestricted access to the birth companions of her choice; access to professional midwifery care; and the freedom to walk, move about, and assume the positions of her choice during labor and birth (unless restriction is specifically required to correct a complication).
Additionally, to be Mother Friendly, a facility would avoid routinely using practices and procedures that are unsupported by scientific evidence; they would educate staff in non-pharmacological methods of pain relief, and they do not promote the use of analgesia or anesthesia unless required to correct a complication. These are just a few of the steps, to learn more about what makes a birth center, a hospital, and/or a practitioner, Mother Friendly visit CIMS at http://www.motherfriendly.org.
It's important to recognize that even with a hospital designation of Mother or Baby Friendly, your specific birth attendant may not agree with or practice in accordance with the designation. For this reason, if you truly want care that is compassionate, caring, and safest for you and your infant, seek out a provider that is Mother Friendly and values your input and wishes. Your birthing experience depends on it.