By Jessica Hughes, CNC, RN, IBCLC:

Sunshine Hospital is a large tertiary care centre and one of the only two maternity services in metropolitan Melbourne to hold the coveted, internationally recognized Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) accreditation. Sunshine Hospital has been BFHI accredited since 2000 and in November 2021, the Australian College of Midwives (ACM) awarded Sunshine Hospital BFHI accreditation for the seventh time running.

The Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) was developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in 1990. The role of the BFHI is to protect, promote and support breastfeeding within health care facilities globally. It does this by providing a framework for Baby Friendly health care facilities to operate within called the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. These standards ensure all families receive appropriate support and contemporary evidence based information in both the antenatal and postnatal period, regarding infant feeding.

The accreditation means that Sunshine Hospital has passed a rigorous and comprehensive hospital-wide assessment by ACM. The accreditation assessment is conducted every three years and involves an extensive appraisal of hospital’s infant feeding practices, as well as one-on-one interviews with staff and patients to evaluate the hospital’s commitment to breastfeeding.

Supporting families to achieve their breastfeeding goals is a high priority at Western Health, and to be recognised by the ACM for our fundamental commitment to this cause calls for an auspicious celebration. BFHI practices are purposefully entrenched in our routine health care practices and we are continuously endeavouring to improve and provide evidence based care for families.

Maintaining BFHI accreditation is a satisfying and rewarding experience which is embraced at Sunshine Hospital. Our infant feeding policies, procedures and guidelines are based on the BFHI Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and provide robust frameworks which enable us to deliver integrated, consistent and evidenced based infant feeding care. These important documents are authored by a senior lactation consultant and BFHI Coordinator, and are also endorsed by an array of other important stakeholders such as obstetricians, paediatricians, neonatologists, nurses and midwives and members of the allied health care team.

Keys points in our policies, procedures and guidelines outline:

  • our commitment to comply with the International Code of Marketing for Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions,
  • how we regularly audit our clinical practice to ensure quality assurance and identify opportunities for improvement,
  • how we support all hospital staff (clinical and non-clinical) to undertake regular infant feeding training.

Furthermore, our policies, procedures and guidelines outline how we facilitate timely skin to skin contact after birth, deliver practical and individualised gold standard infant feeding support for families and refer families to community based support services following hospital discharge.

Being BFHI accredited at Sunshine Hospital is important because it signifies to our community that we are committed to delivering best care. BFHI supports positive workplace culture, as well as recruitment and retention of staff through increased professional development opportunities and increased job satisfaction. Staff at Sunshine Hospital are proud to be part of a BFHI accredited facility and report fulfilment facilitating practices which support the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, because these Steps support informed choice, parental empowerment and positive infant feeding outcomes.