The Breastfeeding Support and Promotion in Baby-Friendly Maternity Hospitals and Not-as-Yet Baby-Friendly Hospitals in Russia

Lyubov V. Abolyan. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2006, 1(2): 71-78.


Objective: The objective was to evaluate implementation of the WHO/UNICEF “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” as defined by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in eight maternity hospitals in the Moscow region. Four maternity hospitals had been certified Baby- Friendly Hospitals (BFHs), the experimental group; and four maternity hospitals Not-as-Yet Baby Friendly, the control group (NBFHs).

Methods: Maternal interviews and infant breastfeeding rates were the primary outcomes of the study. In total, 741 healthy postpartum women from the experimental and control group were interviewed: 383 and 358, respectively. Interviews were conducted over 5 months, from May to July 2004. In addition, an assessment of levels and trends in breastfeeding for the period of 1998 to 2003 was made for the area served by the BFHs and the NBFHs.

Findings: Analyses of the questionnaires completed by the mothers found a positive effect of BFH practice on a number of parameters, such as an increased rate of in-hospital exclusive breastfeeding, mothers’ decisions concerning planned duration of breastfeeding, mothers’ and babies’ health, and maternal knowledge about the necessary measures in BFHs. Mothers appreciated baby-friendly changes, such as rooming-in, breastfeeding on baby’s demand, and taking care of their babies by themselves.

The successful initiation of breastfeeding in the BFHs was shown to favor the promotion of breastfeeding among 1-year-old babies in the experimental areas. However, there were some shortcomings in the BFHs: frequent use of labor anesthesia; insufficient placing of newborns on the mothers’ abdomen, rooming-in, and initiating breastfeeding immediately; and a short length of “skin-to-skin” contact (<30 minutes). The women in BFHs also observed the use of feeding bottles and dummies, and experienced some problems with breast health. Conclusions: BFH practices can increase breastfeeding rates as well as maternal satisfaction. However, shortcomings in the training and support for mothers, and limited help of the medical personnel were noted. It is recommended that BFHs pay attention to maintaining adherence to the criteria of the 10 steps of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. Since 2003 to control the implementation of the Baby Friendly Initiative principles and sustain the progress in the hospitals designated as Baby Friendly reassessment of maternity hospitals is held in Russia in conformity with the requirements of WHO and UNICEF.