Background: The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative was launched by the World Health Organization and UNICEF in 1989 to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding worldwide. The objective of this study was to report breastfeeding rates and adherence to the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative of the World Health Organization and UNICEF in Canada, as reported by participants in the Maternity Experiences Survey of the Canadian Perinatal Surveillance System.
Methods: Eligible women (n = 8,244) were identified from a randomly selected sample of infants born 3 months before the May 2006 Canadian Census, and stratified by province or territory. Birth mothers living with their infants at the time of interview were invited to participate in a computer-assisted telephone interview conducted by Statistics Canada on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada. Interviews took approximately 45 minutes and were completed when infants were between 5 and 10 months old (between 9 and 14 months in the territories). Completed responses were obtained from 6,421 women (78% response rate). Nineteen of 309 questions concerned early mother-infant contact and breastfeeding practices.
Results: Breastfeeding intention (90.0%) and initiation (90.3%) rates were high, although exclusive breastfeeding rates at 6 months after birth (14.4%) were lower than desirable. The findings suggested a low adherence to several best practices advocated by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
Conclusion: Although breastfeeding initiation rates were relatively high in Canada, exclusive breastfeeding duration fell short of globally recommended standards.