Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative was launched in 1991 as a global campaign to prepare health systems and mobilize health care workers to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

The initiative aims to give every baby the best start in life by creating a health care environment that supports breastfeeding as the norm. It therefore provides a framework that enables mothers to acquire the skills they need to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months (180 completed days), followed by complementary foods and continued breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond. A baby-friendly facility also assists mothers who are not breastfeeding to make informed decisions and care for their babies in the best possible way.]

The two main goals of BFHI are:

  • Transform hospitals and maternity facilities through implementation of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.
  • End the distribution of free and low-cost supplies of breast milk substitutes to health facilities.


Benefits of Breastfeeding

  • Breast milk provides complete nutrition for the first 6 months of an infant’s life.
  • Breast milk protects against some infections. COLOSTRUM IS THE FIRST IMMUNIZATION.
  • Babies who are exclusively breastfed have less episodes of diarrhoea, acute respiratory infection and skin conditions.
  • Breastfeeding establishes a close loving bond between mother and baby.
  • Breastfeeding offers benefits for mothers:]
    • decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
    • improved postpartum recovery.
    • reduced iron loss.


Guiding Principles of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BHFI)

  • Every child has the right to benefit from the tremendous nutritional, immunological, psycho-emotional, physiological, economic and hygienic advantages of breastfeeding.
  • Breast milk is the ideal food for babies and can satisfy all the infant’s nutritional needs for the first 6 months of life.
  • Breastfeeding is the norm for infant feeding in Jamaica. All health care personnel have a role in protecting, promoting and providing support for the successful initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.
  • Breastfeeding is the best option for baby. However, in the event that a mother chooses not to breastfeed, she should discuss this with her healthcare provider. Individual counseling may dispel myths or concerns and she may eventually be encouraged to successfully breastfeed. If she still chooses not to breastfeed, she should receive no lesser standard or quality of health care.
  • The number of women who initiate and continue breastfeeding can be increased dramatically with appropriate prenatal, postpartum and hospital support and information.


Components of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BHFI)

  1. Actions for the Support and Promotion of Successful Breastfeeding
    • A facility that is designated Baby-Friendly implements the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.
  2. Actions Aimed at Protecting and Promoting the Health of the Mother
    • Carry out prenatal care in keeping with Maternal and Child Health and hospital norms.
    • Early detection and referral of high risk pregnancies and obstetric emergencies.
    • Establish and maintain a system of quality assurance.
    • Provide appropriate health education for pregnant women.
    • Promote and provide family planning services.
    • Teach women proper self-examination techniques with appropriate follow-up for early detection of breast cancer.
    • Encourage mothers to do routine tests to facilitate early detection of cancers of the reproductive system.
  3. Actions Aimed at Neonatal and Infant Care
    • Ensure that the Expanded Programme on Immunization is implemented as scheduled.
    • Monitor growth and development in keeping with maternal and child health and hospital norms.
    • Ensure that mothers have 24 hour access to their hospitalized children in order to facilitate continued breastfeeding and mothering.
    • Ensure adequate advice and counseling for mothers for whom breastfeeding is contra-indicated or if they choose not to breastfeed.
  4. Research Activities
    • Conduct studies in prenatal, maternal and infant morbidity and mortality.
    • Establish effective surveillance systems using standardized documentation with timely data entry, analysis and dissemination of information.


The Ten Steps of the BHFI

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in those skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Ensure skin to skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth and initiation of breastfeeding within a half hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breast feed and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
  • Give newborn 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 breast feeding on demand.
  • Give no ARTIFICAL TEATS OR PACIFIERS (also called dummies and soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.


Download the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative Booklet