Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital Initiative Promotes Infant Health

Courtesy photo


There has been a big push nationally to promote and support breastfeeding: the Surgeon General’s “A Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding” (2011); the CDC’s annual Breastfeeding Report Card that details each state’s breastfeeding initiation, three and six month rates; The Business Case for Breastfeeding; and a new ad campaign by the Kellogg Foundation to promote breastfeeding, particularly among women of color.

Included in those efforts is the Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital Initiative, established by UNICEF, which includes the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The Ten Steps are shown to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration and are the means by which a hospital or birth center can achieve Baby Friendly status.

There are no hospitals in New Mexico with Baby Friendly status, although Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Las Cruces and the Indian Health Service in western New Mexico are rapidly working toward accreditation.

These are the Ten Steps that each hospital should do to achieve Baby Friendly status:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  • Give 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 breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

Some hospitals have opted to adopt a select few steps only. It does not confer Baby Friendly status but it does help new moms in many ways to achieve their breastfeeding goals. So the question for you to ask your health care providers and the facility in which you choose to give birth is:  Which of the Ten Steps have you formally implemented – and what are you doing to work toward adopting the other steps?

For more information, see: Baby Friendly USA at

Editor’s note: Kelley Baer is a certified lactation consultant and childbirth educator and owns Pajarito Lactation.

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