Baby Friendly? Mother Friendly?
Have you heard of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative? Are these terms confusing? What do these terms actually mean for mothers and babies? What are their differences?
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) desires to promote breastfeeding and the health of babies through evidence based practices for successful breastfeeding, and mother/baby bonding. It is an international program initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991. The program is voluntary and if a hospital pursues the designation, they can be awarded the coveted Baby Friendly Hospital status.
The Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative is an initiative of the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. It’s goals are broader, encompassing baby friendly goals and promoting evidence based maternity care. While the United States spends far more per capita than other countries on maternity and newborn care, our maternal mortality rates continue to rise. This initiative wishes to promote and help implement policies for the holistic health of mothers and babies.
*As this post has grown in length, we will share information on Baby Friendly policies here and save the Mother-Friendly Initiative steps, what they look like in practice, and their benefits for another post.
Why Baby Friendly and Why Now?
The World Health Organization recognizes that some hospital policies need to change in order to improve infant and maternal mortality rates. Breastfeeding improves baby’s health, decreases the risk of SIDS, asthma, diabetes, ear infections, and childhood leukemia.
Breastfeeding benefits mother’s health by reducing ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and diabetes rates. Breastfeeding also helps promote the mother/baby bond.
One of the key components of Baby Friendly policies is respecting an undisturbed 1- 2 hours after birth for mother and baby. This is known as The Golden Hour. During the golden hour, baby is kept on mother’s chest skin-to-skin and newborn exam is delayed until after breastfeeding has begun. Newborn exams are conducted on the mother’s chest encouraging baby and mother to stay together throughout their hospital stay. Don’t worry, Dads. You can have skin-to-skin with baby, too. Some of the benefits of skin-to-skin are:
- Helps baby’s body temperature regulate
- Helps baby’s blood sugar level regulate
- Helps baby’s heart rate regulate
- No interference with initiating breastfeeding
- Helps release mother’s bonding hormones
- Helps release breastfeeding hormones
Here are the 10 steps to becoming recognized as Baby Friendly.
Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
- Give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice rooming in – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and provide their information to mothers on discharge from the hospital or birth center.
What does this mean for mothers?
This means mother’s voice will matter more. This means her desire to successfully breastfeed and bond with baby will be supported throughout labor, birth, and postpartum stay at the hospital. How does this look in practice and what are the benefits?
- Any medication offered will be considered by how it will effect mother and baby alertness after birth for bonding and establishing a good latch.
- No routine separation of baby from mother after birth for any routine exam. The partner accompanies baby for hearing test.
- Rooming in is encouraged and supported.
- In the event of c-section, skin-to-skin and breastfeeding are initiated in the operating room unless truly medically prohibitive. Baby is not routinely taken to nursery.
- Anesthesiologist manages medication used during surgery with the purpose of an alert mother and baby.
- Mother’s wishes are listened to. She feels respected and valued.
- A woman’s confidence as a mother is supported and strengthened.
- Newborn breast crawl may be encouraged.
By taking care of baby, we are taking care of mothers. Next time, we share about The Mother-Friendly Initiative. Please feel free to share you Baby Friendly experiences in comments.
To read Mother Friendly Initiative pt. 2, visit here.
For more information on The Golden Hour, visit here.
For information on baby’s stages during The Golden Hour, visit here.
I will leave you with this beautiful video of the breast crawl.