Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative

The Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched by WHO and UNICEF in 1991, following the Innocenti Declaration of 1990. The Innocenti Declaration is a document that outlines the optimal feeding of babies and children. Part of this declaration was a recommendation that all governments should develop national breastfeeding policies and implement systems to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. The initiative is a global effort to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding. 

So we know now that The BFHI was established to encourage maternity hospitals to implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and to practise in accordance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

The Baby Friendly Initiative works with the health-care system to ensure a high standard of care in relation to infant feeding for pregnant women and mothers and babies. Support is provided for health-care facilities that are seeking to implement best practice, and an assessment and accreditation process recognises those that have achieved the required standard.

Since its launching BFHI has grown, with more than 152 countries around the world implementing the initiative. The initiative has measurable and proven impact, increasing the likelihood of babies being exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Since the beginning of the BFHI, over 22,000 hospitals worldwide have become designated “Baby Friendly. However, the vast majority of hospitals in the world have failed to implement the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the 20 years since this agreement was signed.

In South Africa, the BFHI was launched in 1994 and St Monica’s Maternity Hospital in Cape Town was the first hospital to be accredited Baby-Friendly. The Western Cape has 74 public and private hospitals with maternity wards, of which only 19 boasts the BFHI accreditation. 17 of the 19 are public hospitals. So we know now that nineteen hospitals in the Western Cape Province have received this accreditation. Alan Blyth Hospital celebrated its international Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) accreditation by hosting a ceremony on Monday, 13 February 2012.

Nurses and midwives should take action. Advocate for Baby Friendly accreditation at your local hospitals. Join breastfeeding organizations such as La Leche. If you are not already a member, I urge you to attend a La Leche League Group regularly and become a member. or become a member of International Baby Food Action Network. Write letters to your local hospital administration, health minister, head of obstetrics, maternity ward, public health unit (health units can earn Baby Friendly accreditation as well), and health authority, advocating for a push to improve infant and maternal health via the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Change the world, improve health, support women! One hospital at a time….

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