The Baby-Friendly Initiative: Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding

CM Pound, SL Unger; Canadian Paediatric Society, Nutrition and Gastroenterology Committee
Paediatr Child Health 2012;17(6):317-21


Breastfeeding confers extensive and well-established benefits and is recognized as an extremely effective preventative health measure for both mothers and babies. Except in very few specific medical situations, breastfeeding should be universally encouraged for all mothers and infants. To improve worldwide breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, the WHO and UNICEF launched the Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) in 1991. The goal was to protect, promote and support breastfeeding by adherence to the WHO’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding”. Since then, more than 20,000 hospitals in 156 countries have achieved Baby-Friendly status, with a resultant increase in both breastfeeding initiation and duration. Still, only 500 hospitals are currently designated Baby-Friendly in industrialized countries, including 37 health centres or health authorities in Canada. Health care practitioners have a unique and influential role in promoting and supporting breastfeeding. Provincial and territorial government leadership is essential to ensuring implementation of the BFI in all health care facilities delivering services to families with young children.

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