Baby-Friendly Hospitals’ Make Breastfeeding Easier
‘PAHO is recommending “10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF as part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, originally launched in 1990. PAHO/WHO is revitalizing the initiative in 2010 to help ensure that babies are born in environments that are supportive of breastfeeding.
The 10 steps—recommended for every facility that provides maternity services and care for newborns—are:
The hours and days immediately after birth is a period of high vulnerability for newborns. Early initiation of breastfeeding—within a baby’s first hour of life— and exclusive breastfeeding for six months can help prevent illness and death.
In fact, breastfeeding is the single most effective intervention for preventing deaths of children under 5. Studies show that about one-fifth of neonatal (under 1 month)deaths could be prevented if all newborns began breastfeeding during the first hour of life. Moreover, children who are breastfed for seven to nine months have, on average, six points higher IQ than children breastfed for less than a month.
In the Americas, the proportion of infants initiating breastfeeding within the first hour is less than 50 percent in more than half the countries for which good data are available. The practice of exclusive breastfeeding for six months is also low, ranging from 8 percent to 64 percent of babies.
Hundreds of hospitals and health facilities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have been certified as “Baby Friendly” since 1990 under the PAHO/WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. However, because certification does not ensure that quality standards continue to be met over time, PAHO is urging that all facilities undergo a recertification process every three to five years.
Interested health facilities, or those that were previously certified, should contact their country’s Ministry of Health for information about certification or recertification. Technical briefs and posters from the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative are available for download on the PAHO website and are being distributed throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.