Promoting and protecting breastfeeding in Australia
The Baby Friendly Health Initiative
Breastfeeding provides babies with the best start in life and all the nutrients they need for the first six months of their lives. Babies who are fed in this way are therefore less likely to suffer a range of serious illnesses during infancy and childhood.
UNICEF promotes breastfeeding through the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI). The BFHI was launched in 1991 by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is an evidence based initiative that improves the successful establishment of breastfeeding by women giving birth in accredited hospitals.
The BFHI involves a system for assessing and accrediting hospitals as ‘Baby Friendly’ if they comply with the 'Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding' established by WHO and UNICEF.
Implementation of these ten steps produces significant increases in the number and duration of exclusive breastfeeding, particularly in areas where breastfeeding rates are the worst.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has an extraordinary range of benefits for both the child and the mother.
Babies who are breastfed can have a reduced risk of infectious illness and a large number of acute and chronic diseases including diabetes, lymphoma obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and respiratory infections.
Mothers who breastfeed are at lower risk of developing certain cancers and osteoporosis. These health outcomes significantly reduce the burden place on the nation’s health system. Many of these conditions including some cancers, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and asthma have been identified as National Health Priority areas.
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The research shows:
BFHI in Australia
- Breastfed babies have 15% fewer GP consultations during their first 6 months of life than babies fed on artificial formula.
- Baby Friendly accreditation increases breastfeeding uptake by an average of 10%.
- Mothers are 28% more likely to breastfeed in Baby Friendly Hospitals.
There are currently 66 accredited hospitals across the country, catering for just under 80,000 (30 per cent of total births) births per year. In 2008, 5 new hospitals sought initial accreditation.
For more Information on the Baby Friendly Health Initiative contact UNICEF Australia on 02 9261 2811 or visit the BFHI Australia website.
Ten steps to successful breastfeeding
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half-hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
- Practice rooming in - that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.