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Delivering in a Baby Friendly Hospital

One of the things about having your husband work in a hospital and have hospital specific health insurance is that your choices for where to have a baby are pretty limited. But for us, this has ended up being a pretty good thing, and not just because our prenatal care has been absurdly inexpensive. Our hospital is what I would describe as pretty new-age-y, which was a surprise since it’s also a religiously affiliated hospital and in my experience, those are not usually the ones with the most open minds. And yet, not only is our hospital open minded, sometimes more than I am, but it’s also Baby Friendly.

In fact, our hospital was the first pediatric hospital in the nation to receive this designation.

You may be wondering what this means since you’d think that all hospitals would be Baby Friendly, but apparently, they’re not. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative was started by UNICEF and WHO in the 1990s to try to encourage breastfeeding throughout the world. The idea, at least in the United States, is that all women should be able to breastfeed and should feel supported in trying to do so. And so the initiative created 10 steps, all related to breastfeeding, that hospitals had to implement to become Baby Friendly.

According to the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative website, the 10 steps are:
1 - Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
2 - Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
3 - Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
4 - Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
5 - Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
6 - Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
7 - Practice “rooming in”– allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
8 - Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
9 - Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
10 - Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic

In our hospital, after the baby is born the mother, father and baby are given 2 hours of alone time to do skin-to-skin with the baby and to be coached in breastfeeding. They have a large staff of lactation consultants and all nurses are also instructed in how to assist in initiating breastfeeding. To me, this sounds entirely ideal, though I will freely admit that I have no problem offering my son a pacifier and will very likely bring my own.

I want to breastfeed my son, I want as much support and assistance as possible, but I realize that this isn’t for everyone. For women who have decided not to breastfeed for any reason, the initiative restricts access to formula and pacifiers and essentially makes decisions on behalf of the mother. The intention is absolutely amazing, but I imagine that the result isn’t as lovely for all mothers as it is for me.

Would you want to deliver at a Baby Friendly hospital? Why or why not?

Photo from Globalfjord

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