What Makes a Hospital 'Baby-Friendly?'

For this growing initiative, bonding with baby is top of mind.
ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
Jul 2016
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Photo: Shutterstock

By nature, maternity wards are baby-friendly spaces. So you may wonder what some hospitals around the country are doing to earn an official “baby-friendly” classification. This important designation is contingent on what happens immediately after delivery.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) places an emphasis on mother/baby bonding right after birth. It recognizes hospitals that facilitate keeping the pair together in the delivery room rather than whisking baby away to a nursery, provided that there are no complications. One of the primary goals of the BFHI is to promote breastfeeding within an hour of birth.

This initiative, launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is nothing new, but it’s a growing trend. Currently, 356 hospitals in the US are deemed “baby-friendly,” accommodating about 18 percent of births. In 2007, that number was only at 2.9 percent.

One potential drawback of this initiative? If you’ve had an extremely long labor, you may need time to rest, without baby. And several Bumpies report frustration with their hospital’s refusal to support formula feeding or supplementation if breastfeeding wasn’t coming naturally.

In order to avoid any post-birth problems, it’s important to talk to your doctor and/or hospital before your due date to familiarize yourself with any existing “baby-friendly” policies. Scheduling a tour of the maternity ward is a smart way to get your questions answered before you draft your birth plan. Wondering what else you may need to ask about? Here are a few other things that happen right after labor that you’ll want to prepare for.

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