Baby-Friendly Initiative

(example: St. Mary's Hospital Center)

Supported by the Foundation from 2008 to 2013

The first weeks of life are critical. Many studies have proven the benefits of breastfeeding for babies' overall development, and breastfeeding is recognized as a significant preventive health measure for both mothers and babies. We know that breastfeeding reduces infants' risk of contracting several diseases, and many studies have shown that babies who are breastfed exclusively benefit from even greater advantages.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF launched the Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) in 1991 with the goal of increasing the rate and duration of exclusive breastfeeding around the world.

To be eligible for the Baby-Friendly designation, a centre must respect all of the Ten steps to successful breastfeeding for at least 80% of all the women and children in its care.

These conditions include:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy
  • Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement the breastfeeding policy
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits of breastfeeding
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within a half hour after birth
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation

As hospitals are the perfect place to reach out to future mothers, the Foundation lends its support to several hospitals throughout Quebec in their efforts to achieve BFI accreditation in order to:

  • improve the rate of exclusive breastfeeding and its duration (up to six months, ideally) while respecting all mothers' feeding choices
  • strengthen the mother-child bond by reducing the number of separations that are not medically necessary
  • organize training activities for employees concerned
  • promote the creation of baby-friendly environments
  • encourage hospital centres to play an active role in their communities by creating connexions with other groups

Several Quebec hospitals have already received support from the Foundation in connection with the Baby-Friendly Initiative:

  • Sainte-Justine University Hospital Centre
  • Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec
  • Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal
  • McGill University Health Centre
  • Centre universitaire de santé Sherbrooke
  • St. Mary's Hospital Center

The example of St. Mary's Hospital Center

With 4,226 births in 2011-2012, St. Mary's Hospital Center is one of largest birthing centres on the Island of Montreal.

After a lengthy process, the Center obtained Baby-Friendly Hospital Status in 2011. In concrete terms, this has translated into:

  • An excellent annual rate of exclusive breastfeeding at birth (94%) and after leaving the hospital (78%)
  • Training of several lactation consultants
  • Production of pamphlets, posters and information videos for parents
  • Ongoing training of personnel
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