What is a Baby Friendly Hospital?

Baby Friendly Hospital


In April , Mayor Bloomberg announced that the New York City (NYC) Health Department would launch an initiative to encourage city hospitals to be baby friendly. In May, New York City Health Commissioner, Thomas Farley, announced the launch of the citywide initiative, “Latch On NYC.” at Harlem Hospital, the city’s first Baby Friendly Hospital.


NYC is asking maternity hospitals to voluntarily limit the promotion of infant formula because it can interfere with breastfeeding. Eleven public hospitals and 12 private hospitals have signed on. NYC will also roll out a subway and hospital poster campaign aimed at showing the benefits of breastfeeding. In NYC, 90% of mothers breastfeed, but only 31% are exclusively doing so by three months.


On June 28, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 4968, which calls on every hospital that provides birthing services to “adopt an infant feeding policy to promote breastfeeding.” The bill asks hospitals to consider guidance from the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in developing their policies.




The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a worldwide program launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding. Over 19,000 maternity facilities internationally have received the Baby-Friendly Award. As of May 2012, 143 US hospitals and birth centers are designated as Baby Friendly.


In order to be designated as Baby Friendly, a hospital or birth center must follow The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.




1. Have 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 newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.


7. Practice “rooming-in” — allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.


8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.


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.



An article published in the July 1st edition of Pediatrics found that two-thirds of mothers who intend to exclusively breastfeed are not meeting their goals. More than 85% of mothers intend to exclusively breastfeed for three months or more and only 32.4% do so. The study, “Baby-Friendly Hospital Practices and Meeting Exclusive Breastfeeding Intention,” found that beginning breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and not giving supplemental feedings or pacifiers were associated with achieving  the exclusive breastfeeding intention.


The study concludes that increased Baby-Friendly Hospital practices, particularly giving only breast milk in the hospital, may help more women to achieve their exclusive breastfeeding goals. In “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all women exclusively breastfeed for six months.




Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)Peggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.



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6 thoughts on “What is a Baby Friendly Hospital?”

  1. What about natural birthing methods? Accepting doulas? Or even, providing doulas! Supporting VBAC? Supporting water birth? Teaching real birth classes, lending out books by Sheila Kitzinger, Sarah Buckley, Ina May Gaskin? Teaching OB’s how to preform breech births (not that harrowing!) Helping women to avoid narcotics during birth (instead of constantly asking, “you want your epidural, yet” “you can’t do it, just take the shot!” “is it bad enough yet?”) Encouraging delayed cord clamping & skin to skin contact. Leaving vernix on the skin. Providing hypnobirth tools. Ending episiotomy, controlling elective C-sections, teaching perineal massage, understanding the true length of pregnancy (it’s not always 42 weeks!,) trusting women and teaching them to trust themselves and their babies! Now that’s baby friendly!

  2. I find this article completely sickning i agree with reese but what about choices i know breastmilk is good for babys but what about these mothers who DO NOT WANT TO BREASTFEED i think to do this to hospitals is taking that choice away from parents and thats rediculas their going to find more people birthing at home and having home births rather then going to hospitals and this is exactly why and also i agree with reese on alot in her articles why arent they allowing people to make those choices but their making the choice to push parents to breastfeed common really;(

  3. I have a four month old and had him at a Baby Friendly Hospital. If it wasn’t for the lactation consultant and nurses during my stay at the hospital I probably wouldn’t still be nursing my son. I also was able to use the hospitals lactation center several weeks after I was sent home. Breastfeeding was not pushed upon me by the hospital and I never felt like I didn’t have a choice to use formula. In fact my son ended up in NICU and they gave him formula because I wasn’t producing enough milk. I think the Baby Friendly initiative is awesome. Breast milk is so much better for babies than formula in my opinion and I hope through this initiative that more mom’s stick with nursing after having experienced a Baby Friendly hospital. Ho

  4. I have a four month old and had him at a Baby Friendly Hospital. If it wasn’t for the lactation consultant and nurses during my stay at the hospital I probably wouldn’t still be nursing my son. I also was able to use the hospitals lactation center several weeks after I was sent home. Breastfeeding was not pushed upon me by the hospital and I never felt like I didn’t have a choice to use formula. Hopefully other people’s experiences are as good as the one I had. Nursing is one of the hardest things to do, well for me it was a challenge and had the staff not been so supportive with breastfeeding I probably would have given up. I think this initiative is one of the best things we can do for our nations babies. Hopefully other mom’s have a great experience like I did.

  5. Baby Friendly Hospitals don’t force women to breastfeed or take away choice. They do, however, provide the information and help that makes breastfeeding successful. You can say no just as easily in a BFH as in any other hospital but what is different is that the 85% of mothers who do want to breastfeeding will get the help they need.

  6. I think the term ‘baby friendly’ is a misnomer. Breastfeeding is important but there is so much more to what ‘baby friendly’ should be other then just breastfeeding.

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