In 1991 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) launched a global program called the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFH). Recognizing the overwhelming evidence-based benefits of breastfeeding, the BFHI is designed to encourage hospitals and other health facilities to provide the optimal level of care for nursing infants and to recognize the facilities that meet these high standards.
In order to obtain the “Baby-Friendly Hospital” designation, the facility must adhere to the following Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice rooming-in – that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together – 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding have been promoted by several other leading authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and many others. The BFHI assists hospitals in the training and education required for the Ten Steps and then employs a a comprehensive accreditation process to actually earn the accolade.
Rush University Medical Center, after a five-plus year commitment, recently earned the “baby-friendly” designation in February 2017. Rush University joins Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, Advocate Trinity Hospital and Presence St. Joseph Hospital as the only hospitals within the City of Chicago as having the designation. Rush University becomes the seventeenth (17th) baby-friendly hospital across the State of Illinois (designated facilities by state).
Unfortunately there are not currently any baby-friendly hospitals within Chicago’s North Shore. If you will be giving birth at a facility without the designation, it makes it all the more important to educate yourself in advance about breastfeeding.