UNICEF and WHO is calling upon hospitals worldwide to implement a ten-step breastfeeding initiative.


The scientific evidence supporting breastfeeding is indisputable. UNICEF and WHO is calling upon hospitals worldwide to implement a new ten-step breastfeeding initiative.

In a joint press release between the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the organizations issued a new ten-step guideline to increase support for breastfeeding worldwide.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding summarizes evidence-based policies and procedures that organizations providing maternity and newborn health services should implement and follow to support breastfeeding, which the press release says "saves lives."

Related: Thailand Bans Formula Ads to Increase Breastfeeding

The clearly defined steps include recommendations such as increasing staff competency, rooming-in, and promoting responsive feeding. For example, step three includes supporting mothers in breastfeeding right after delivery by facilitating skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth and by helping mothers to bring the baby to the breast right away.

"This initiative is really about the first few days of life, it's about what happens in our birthing facilities. It is a critical juncture to make sure that breastfeeding gets started appropriately and that mothers can be successful," Dr. Laurence Grummer-Strawn, a WHO expert, told a news briefing.

Step six of the report addresses supplementation and implicitly states that hospitals should support mothers by giving only breastmilk unless there are medical indications otherwise. The guidelines also encourage hospitals to educate mothers on the use and risks of bottles and pacifiers.

Related: The WHO Endorses Breastfeeding Selfies

With that being said, mothers should not be made to feel guilty if they decide to discontinue breastfeeding, said Grummer-Strawn. Instead, health facilities should not promote formula or distribute free samples. According to Reuters, the infant formula market continues rapid expansion, increasing by $26 billion in a mere five years.

According to the WHO, a systematic review of 58 studies on maternity and newborn care published in 2016 demonstrated that adherence to the ten-step guidelines impacts early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and breastfeeding duration.

"Hospitals are not there just to cure the ill. They are there to promote life and ensure people can thrive and live their lives to their full potential," says WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros. "As part of every country's drive to achieve universal health coverage, there is no better or more crucial place to start than by ensuring the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are the standard for care of mothers and their babies."