Baby-Friendly USA (BFUSA) is pleased to announce that, for the first time ever, more than 500 hospitals/birthing centers are designated as Baby-Friendly in the United States. This important milestone indicates widespread recognition for Baby-Friendly practices in maternity facilities across the country.
Baby-Friendly practices are designed to optimize mother-baby bonding and to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in the first few days of a new baby’s life. Baby-Friendly designation means that a maternity facility has successfully implemented the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which include providing appropriate education to enable families to make informed decisions about infant feeding, encouraging mothers to hold their babies skin-to-skin immediately following birth, and offering expert lactation support throughout and beyond the hospital stay.
As recently as 2010, there were less than 100 Baby-Friendly designated facilities implementing these practices in the US, but the designation has gained significant traction since then. Reaching the 500 mark means that currently:
- Approximately 24% of babies born in the US are born in Baby-Friendly designated facilities; and
- Approximately 1 in 6 hospitals/birthing centers in the US are Baby-Friendly designated.
“We are so excited and proud to make this announcement,” said Trish MacEnroe, BFUSA’s Executive Director.
As the accrediting body and national authority for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in the United States, BFUSA coordinates and conducts all activities necessary to confer the Baby-Friendly designation in this country. Before Baby-Friendly practices began to take hold across the US, commercial interests significantly influenced infant feeding practices in ways that undermined breastfeeding. That is no longer the case in the 500 facilities that have been designated as Baby-Friendly.
The 500 milestone was applauded by officials at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), global organizations that have been promoting Baby-Friendly practices throughout the world since they launched the BFHI in 1991.
“Breastfeeding confers enormous health benefits for both mothers and babies, protecting against SIDS, childhood obesity, diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancer,” said Laurence Grummer-Strawn, technical officer for the WHO. “WHO has called upon all maternity facilities to implement the Ten Steps and the BFHI has helped hospitals implement these practices worldwide. It is exciting to see the USA reach this major milestone in ensuring that more hospitals provide timely and appropriate care for protecting the health of moms and babies.”
“A nutritious, affordable and sustainable diet for children starts with breastfeeding,” said Victor Aguayo, Chief of UNICEF’s Nutrition Programme. “At Baby-Friendly hospitals, mothers and families receive the support they need to breastfeed their babies from the very first hour. We congratulate Baby-Friendly USA for this major achievement and hope that their leadership will inspire other hospitals to follow suit.”
While celebrating this moment, BFUSA’s MacEnroe also indicated that another significant achievement is on the horizon. “In another month or two, we will achieve another important milestone: one million babies born each year in Baby-Friendly facilities,” she said.
“I’m pleased for all the people that have dedicated their talents and energies to promote Baby-Friendly practices over the past few years – our staff, our board, our global sponsors, technical assistance providers, professional organizations, government agencies, and the thousands of committed individuals on the front lines of our hospitals and birthing centers. But mostly, I’m happy for the thousands – soon to be millions – of mothers and babies across our land who now have the opportunity to bond in a supportive environment in which evidenced-based care is provided, education is free from commercial interests, and mothers are supported in reaching their infant feeding goals,” she said.