Happy Breastfeeding Week! This week is celebrated annually in Canada from October 1-7 to promote the importance of breastfeeding, and it’s an opportune time to highlight breastfeeding as the foundation of lifelong good health for babies and mothers.
Northern Health is committed to supporting facilities and communities to adopt the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) 10 Steps recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The BFI is a world-wide effort to implement practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.
As a registered nurse and mother of two breastfed children, I find Breastfeeding Week to be a great time to reflect on my breastfeeding experience – even from 15 years ago! As a parent, the BFI provides a framework that reassures me that hospitals and communities are making efforts to achieve standardization of these internationally endorsed 10 steps. Parents may use these 10 steps to help guide their decisions regarding infant feeding and breastfeeding and the supports they may expect from their care providers.
Here are some highlights of how hospitals and communities support mothers to breastfeed (adapted from the WHO’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding):
- Hospital Policies – not promoting infant formulas, bottles or teats; making breastfeeding care standard practice; keeping track of support for breastfeeding.
- Staff Education – training staff on supporting mothers to breastfeed; assessing health workers’ knowledge and skills.
- Prenatal Care – discussing the importance of breastfeeding for babies and mothers; preparing women in how to feed their baby.
- Care Right After Birth – encouraging skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby soon after birth; helping mothers to put their baby to the breast right away.
- Support Mothers With Breastfeeding – checking positioning, attachment and suckling; giving practical breastfeeding support; helping mothers with common breastfeeding problems.
- Supplementing – giving only breastmilk unless there are medical reasons; prioritizing donor human milk when a supplement is needed; helping mothers who want to formula feed do so safely.
- Rooming-In – letting mothers and their babies stay together day and night; making sure that mothers of sick babies can stay near their baby.
- Responsive Feeding – Helping mothers know when their baby is hungry; not limiting breastfeeding times.
- Bottles, Teats and Pacifiers – counsel mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.
- Discharge – referring mothers to community resources for breastfeeding support; working with communities to improve breastfeeding support services.
As we celebrate breastfeeding this week, I invite you to look forward to additional posts throughout Breastfeeding Week 2018!