October 2017: Milk Talk

By Melissa Kirwin, BMSG volunteer

What are all these acronyms and what exactly is the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative?

Expecting a baby, especially your first, can be an extremely exciting yet stressful time for new moms and dads. It does not help when it feels like you are reading code language while doing research to make plans for the pending arrival. Here we will provide you with the information to help make a very important and personal decision – if you plan to breastfeed, (and we obviously strongly encourage you to!) where should you deliver your baby?

The World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with UNICEF launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to promote and support breastfeeding in hospitals and maternity units. Since the BFHI began in 1991, more than 15,000 facilities have been award Baby-Friendly status across the world, including a number of hospitals and medical centers
here in Singapore. (1) The WHO recommends that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of their lives for optimal infant growth and development as well as for health benefits for the mother. (2) To become Baby-Friendly, a facility must not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats and have implemented the following ten steps for successful breastfeeding. (1)

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 breast milk, 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.

As of June this year, all three public hospitals in Singapore are BFHI certified and many of the private hospitals indicate that they are either working towards becoming certified or will review their practices to align further with the BFHI. (3) If you have your heart set on a hospital for delivery and they are not certified, have this list of 10 steps to successful breastfeeding handy at your hospital tour and/or include it with your birth plan. A good hospital and its staff will always give their best efforts to accommodate your requests. If you encounter resistance or questioning, it may be a good idea to move on to hospital choice number two to see if they will better support your efforts to breastfeed.

NOTE: To decode the other acronyms – EBF is exclusively breast-fed, EBM is expressed breast milk and IBCLC is International Board Certified Lactation Consultant



1)The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
2) Exclusive breastfeeding
3) Bigger push for private hospitals to adopt standard breastfeeding-friendly practices
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/bigger-push- for-private- hospitals-to- adopt-standard- breastfeeding-friendly- practices