The role of the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) is to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. It does this by providing a framework for Baby Friendly facilities to operate within. These standards are designed to provide parents with the best information and support in both the antenatal and postnatal period. This facilitates close loving relationships with their baby, and the knowledge to feed and care for them in ways which will support optimum health and development.
In a Baby Friendly accredited facility, breastfeeding is encouraged, supported and promoted. Breastfed babies are not given breast-milk substitutes (infant formula), dummies or teats unless medically indicated or it is the parents informed choice. Regardless of feeding choices and circumstances, every woman is supported to care for her baby in the best and safest way possible.
BFHI is a joint World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF project that aims to create a healthcare environment where breastfeeding is the norm, and practices known to promote the well-being of all mothers and infants are promoted. The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are the global criteria against which maternity hospitals are assessed and accredited.
Baby Friendly accreditation is a quality assurance measure that demonstrates a facility’s commitment to offer the highest standard of maternity care to mothers and babies. Attaining accreditation signifies that the facility is committed to evidence-based, best-practice maternity care and ensuring that every mother is supported with her informed choice of infant feeding during her transition to motherhood.
Maintaining BFHI accreditation, with reassessment every 3 years, ensures regular independent review, and provides facilities with a framework to continuously improve. It ensures that mothers themselves are heard when it comes to their experience of their care. It draws attention to areas of excellence and can improve staff morale.
BFHI accreditation also aids recruitment and retention of staff through increased professional development opportunities and increased job satisfaction.