Aren’t all hospitals Baby Friendly?

What does it mean to be Baby Friendly? I’ll give you the official definition, then describe what that means for new parents.

Baby Friendly is a designation by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.Certified Baby Friendly facilities have made a serious commitment to promote, protect and support breastfeeding and completed ten specific steps.

Three of these steps are: rooming in, encouraging breastfeeding on demand and training all staff in skills needed for these policies to work.

This is what ‘baby-friendly’ means for parents. After birth, mother and newborn rest skin to skin, uninterrupted. It’s best for a newborn and mother’s physical and emotional balance. (Even in most cesareans, a baby can be skin to skin with the mother.) While rooming in, mothers learn their  newborn’s cues for comfort and hunger. ‘Breastfeeding on demand’ becomes a natural call and response.

These simple practices encourage new parents. They get to know their  baby and their own abilities. And when families receive consistent advice from informed staff, prenatal through postpartum, learning to breastfeed is less confusing.  Mothers will continue to breastfeed longer.  ‘Baby Friendly’ is actually ‘Family Friendly’.

Those three examples represent a change in attitude and are entirely do-able. You, as a potential satisfied customer, can advocate for Baby Friendly. Kate Reist, CNM, IBCLC who was instrumental in getting the Cambridge Birth Center certified as Baby Friendly said “Consumers can and will play a big role in making this happen. Parents may ask the question: “Are you a Baby Friendly facility?” and choose where to give birth based on breastfeeding policies.” *

In Massachusetts, there are four Baby Friendly facilities as of 2012. They are: Boston Medical Center, Tobey Hospital, Cambridge Birth Center and Melrose-Wakefield hospital. Let’s make Baby Friendly the standard for family care. Then let’s move on to making Baby Friendly communities.

•quoted in Special Delivery, Winter 2004.