It makes me sad to read articles/blog posts asking, "Are Baby-Friendly hospitals actually unfriendly?". I've read the comments to these articles and it simply breaks my heart that moms go home from a supposed Baby-Friendly hospital with bad experiences. My hospital became designated in 2015 and by following the "rules" (the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding) of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, this is how we do things:
EDUCATION: Moms simply need to make an INFORMED choice about breastfeeding, supplementing, skin-to-skin, rooming-in, pacifier use, etc. It’s not about MAKING a mom follow these guidelines or steps, it’s about telling them the research-based information that backs them. Then, with this information, mom can make the decision that’s best for her. The nurse then has to DOCUMENT the education that mom received and what her decision was.
SUPPORT: All of the nurses are educated and trained to help moms with basic breastfeeding issues and we are all on “the same page”, giving the same information. In addition, our policies are written to break down the barriers that sabotage a good start to breastfeeding and bonding, such as baby going to the nursery right after delivery, baby routinely taken to the nursery at night, etc.
ENCOURAGEMENT: Simple cheerleading, listening, praising. Sometimes all mom needs to hear from the LC or nurse (who are often viewed as the absolute expert) is, “You are doing great! I’m so proud of you.”
Somewhere along the way, some hospitals have gotten lost in the rules (The 10 Steps) and forgotten that all moms/babies are different. Our job is to educate… Not MAKE someone do what we want. Again, it’s about giving mom the correct, up-to-date, research-based information that she needs to make an informed choice. The Baby-Friendly surveyors actually interview the moms who are there at the time, as well as moms who have been discharged. They can tell whether or not the staff has adequately educated and encouraged the recommended practices.
I’m also VERY adamant that our staff presents information in a non-judgemental manner. Moms are under enough pressure in this society – we don’t need to contribute to feelings of unworthiness and guilt. Interestingly enough, Baby-Friendly focuses on mother/infant bonding (STS and rooming-in) and INFANT FEEDING … As in, breast AND formula feeding. We educate moms about breastfeeding (no, it shouldn’t hurt, yes, you can make enough milk for twins, yes, you can feed while taking that medication, yes, it’s possible to continue after going back to work…..) and if their decision is not to breastfeed, then we educate them on bottle feeding per cues, not the clock, feeding appropriate amounts and how to properly prepare it. So, the bottom line is BABY- FRIENDLY isn’t unfriendly, but some of the hospitals are unfriendly in how they execute the program.
Keep Calm and Breastfeed On
The Breastfeeding Guru