After I gave birth, I wanted to keep my son as close to me as possible, and he stayed by my side until we left the hospital a few days later. With him nearby, we could focus on breastfeeding, learn his cues for when he was hungry, and basically get to know each other. A growing number of hospitals in the United States are supporting (and some might say, pushing) this type of 24-hour baby bonding as part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) — which is leading numerous hospitals to close their nurseries or drastically reduce their available hours. The Baby-Friendly Hospital designation, which now includes 356 hospitals and is expected to grow to 530 by the end of next year, is part of a global movement created to increase breastfeeding rates, improve breastfeeding resources, and promote mother/baby bonding. Read on for how BFHI may impact you and potentially your chosen hospital delivery site. Within the next few years, about one in four births will take place at baby-friendly hospitals.
BFHI was launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF 25 years ago, but the “Baby-Friendly” designation has become increasingly popular as evidence mounts illustrating the multiple benefits of breastfeeding. Hospitals that earn the “golden bow” of approval must have certain employees complete 20 hours of breastfeeding training. They also don’t accept donations or significant price reductions for formula or bottles. Additionally, the hospitals follow the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which advocates for initiating breastfeeding within an hour of birth, and encouraging nursing on demand.
For exhausted moms or new parents in general, the BFHI push means that a chance to rest and recover baby-free for an hour or two may no longer be a possibility (um, welcome to parenting!), BFHI certainly has its detractors. Moms who aren’t interested in breastfeeding or who still want the nursery option can ask about their particular hospital’s policies and facilities and also inquire into hospital or birthing center alternatives.