Lansinoh Moms' Club

Should You Seek a Baby-Friendly Hospital?

Mom hand touching baby's hand

As you get closer to your due date, you may be wondering if it’s important to deliver your baby at a hospital or birthing center that’s been designated “Baby-Friendly.” If you want to breastfeed, you may want to ask your doctor or midwife if there’s a Baby-Friendly facility in your area.

Hospitals and birthing centers which earn the right to call themselves Baby-Friendly provide new moms with the knowledge and guidance they need to help them confidently breastfeed their babies. More than 600 facilities across all 50 states have earned the designation from Baby-Friendly USA, which accredits facilities within the U.S. They’re a part of the worldwide Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, which was launched in the 1990s by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage more women everywhere to breastfeed their babies. Earning a Baby-Friendly designation is not a simple task for hospitals, so you know they’ve gone the extra mile to provide you and your baby with extra support.

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These aspects of Baby-Friendly facilities are designed to help you and baby get off to a good start:


Early breastfeeding is encouraged

Baby-Friendly facilities don’t take healthy newborns away for examination and bathing immediately after they’re delivered. Instead, you remain together during your baby’s first hour of life, which allows you to initiate breastfeeding as early as possible. To help the process, a nurse should place your baby on your chest between your bare breasts. This practice, known as skin-to-skin contact, encourages a baby to breastfeed for the first time. This bonding during the first hour of life helps to establish your breastfeeding relationship and has benefits for both mom and baby.

Your baby is your roommate

Healthy babies are able to “room in,” or stay in your hospital room throughout the length of your stay, rather than spending most of their time in a nursery. Having your newborn in your room encourages the two of you to establish breastfeeding on demand: By spending so much time together, you’ll learn your baby’s hunger cues and can nurse whenever your baby needs to.

The nurses in the maternity ward may still take your baby away periodically for testing or procedures, so you shouldn’t expect to be together every minute. You may be able to ask the nurses for baby-free breaks, if you’re trying to recover from the delivery or you need a nap.

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Nurses offer breastfeeding guidance

Breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to everyone; moms and babies often need to be coached. Baby-Friendly facilities are staffed with nurses and lactation consultants who have taught countless mothers and newborns how to nurse. They strive to pick up on breastfeeding problems early and can help to correct improper latches or other issues. If you’re separated from your baby for health reasons, they can teach you how to maintain your milk supply.

There are no distractions from breastfeeding

At Baby-Friendly facilities, if you decide to breastfeed your baby, the nurses won’t give your newborn anything to eat or drink unless it’s medically necessary, which can help to establish your breastfeeding routine. Breastfeeding babies also aren’t offered pacifiers, which may have a negative effect on your milk supply.

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You’re sent home with a plan to succeed

Don’t worry if you haven’t mastered the art of breastfeeding after a two-day stay in the hospital or birthing center. When you’re discharged from your facility, you should receive information to help you continue to succeed on your journey. If the facility has a breastfeeding support group for new moms, you’ll receive information about the program before you’re discharged. And if you have breastfeeding questions after you’ve left the hospital or birthing center, you should be given information so that you can contact designated staff members within the Baby-Friendly program for guidance.

Choosing a Baby-Friendly hospital may give you a little extra assurance that you and your baby get off to a good start with breastfeeding, but if there’s not one in your area, don’t worry. Many facilities are working toward implementing these changes. Have a discussion with your healthcare provider about your desire to breastfeed, and together you can develop a plan to ensure you get the best start.



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