Hospitals Encouraged to Promote Breastfeeding

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As part of an initiative to promote breast-feeding awareness more than 20 years ago, the Innocenti Declaration endeavored to implement the “Ten Steps to Breastfeeding” in all hospital maternities by 1995. To date, only 28% of all hospitals bear the stamp of approval from the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month and supporters are encouraging health care facilities to promote exclusive breastfeeding among new mothers.

WHO says breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months

Breastfeeding is considered the best nutrition for infants and the World Health Organization encourages exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Among the benefits it provides to babies are protection against respiratory illnesses, reduction of later heart disease, diabetes, and allergic conditions, and potential improved brain development leading to higher intelligence quotients. For mothers, women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Read: The Positive Economic Impact of Breastfeeding

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The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global effort by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to implement practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. It aims to ensure that all maternities, whether free-standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support.

Out of the 3,154 hospitals and maternities in the United States in 2005/2006, only 55 had received the BFHI designation.

Read: Breastfeeding Benefits Updated by the American Dietetic Association

The “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” are the foundation of the BFHI and summarize the maternity practices necessary to support breastfeeding. The 10 Steps are:
1. It is a must to have a clearly worded breastfeeding policy which is regularly communicated to all the healthcare staff.
2. All healthcare staff must be trained in the skills required to execute the policy.
3. All pregnant women need to be informed about the importance of breastfeeding, its benefits and management.
4. Mothers should be provided adequate assistance to initiate breastfeeding within half-hour of birth.
5. Mothers should be taught how to breastfeed and maintain lactation should they have to stay away from their infants.
6. Underline the importance of giving newborns only breast milk and no other food or drink.
7. Inculcate rooming in – which is ensuring mothers and infants are always together throughout (24 hrs).
8. Educate mothers to breastfeed on demand.
9. Ensure artificial teats or pacifiers are not given to breastfeeding infants.
10. Encourage the establishment of breastfeeding support groups so that mothers can seek their guidance after discharge from the hospital.

Healthcare facilities are encouraged to visit http://tensteps.org for BFHI Training Materials and Resources to support the promotion of breastfeeding among their new mothers.

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