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Baby Friendly Health Initiative

What is BFHI?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) launched the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in 1991 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding internationally. In Australia in 2006, the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative became the Baby Friendly Health Initiative in order to more accurately reflect the expansion of the initiative into community health settings.

The initiative supports the application of 10 steps to successful breastfeeding for hospitals and the 7 Point Plan for community health centres.

What does it mean for families?

A health service that has been accredited baby friendly has provided evidence that:

  • During pregnancy all mothers are given information about feeding their baby.
  • Mothers and babies are given undisturbed skin-to-skin contact after birth.
  • Mothers are taught about baby feeding cues, expressing and storing breastmilk.
  • Mothers are given information about where to get help with feeding their baby.
  • Mothers who make an informed decision not to breastfeed are taught about safe preparation, transport and storage of infant formula.

What does it mean for health services?

Baby Friendly Health Initiative accredited services must:

  • Provide all staff with education about infant feeding
  • Ensure that practices are based on the latest evidence
  • Provide a breastfeeding friendly environment for patients and visitors
  • Support staff returning to work to continue breastfeeding.

Why should health services become accredited?

The benefits of breastfeeding are well established, however in Australia only a small proportion of women exclusively breastfeed to six months. Hospital and Health Service environments have a vital role in supporting mothers to establish and continue breastfeeding. BFHI is a quality improvement project and should be considered as part of the health facility's total quality management program. BFHI processes can assist to provide evidence for EQuIP 4 Standard 1.1 – Consumers/patients are provided with high quality care throughout the care delivery process.

BFHI is a marketing tool for recruitment and retention of staff. Improved profile of the facility is attained by achieving a global standard developed by the WHO. Accreditation is an opportunity for promotion of the facility within the media.

The Baby Friendly Health Initiative:

  • Is evidence based
  • Is outcomes-oriented
  • Protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding
  • Benefits all babies, parents and carers regardless of feeding method.

How can services become accredited?

Most organisations are surprised by how many BFHI principles they already implement as part of their everyday practice. Many circumstances only require formalising processes that are already in place. Information packs to assist facilities to prepare for BFHI accreditation are available free for download from the Australian College of Midwives website.

Which hospitals and community services in Queensland are accredited?

The latest list of BFHI accredited facilities in Australia is available from the BFHI Australia website.

More information

Breastfeeding statistics

BFHI in Australia

BFHI abroad

World Health Organisation Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (WHO Code)

Last updated: 11 May 2020

Resources for parents, families and carers

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