Global baby-friendly hospital initiative monitoring data: update and discussion

Breastfeed Med. 2012 Aug;7:210-22. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2012.0066.


Background: The World Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was developed to support the implementation of the Ten Steps for Successful Breastfeeding. The purpose of this study is to assess trends in the numbers facilities ever-designated "baby-friendly," to consider uptake of the new WHO/UNICEF BFHI materials, and to consider implications for future breastfeeding support.

Materials and methods: The national contacts from the 2006-2007 UNICEF BFHI update were recontacted, as were WHO and UNICEF officers worldwide, to ascertain the number of hospitals ever-designated "baby-friendly," presence of a government breastfeeding oversight committee, use of the new BFHI materials and, if yes, use of the new maternity or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) materials.

Results: Seventy countries reporting in 2010-2011 and the updates from an additional 61 reporting in 2006-2007 (n=131, or 66% of the 198 countries) confirm that there are at least 21,328 ever-designated facilities. This is 27.5% of maternities worldwide: 8.5% of those in industrialized countries and 31% in less developed settings. In 2010, government committees were reported by 18 countries, and 34 reported using the new BFHI materials: 14 reported using the maternity care and 11 reported using the HIV materials.

Conclusions: Rates of increase in the number of ever-certified "baby-friendly" hospitals vary by region and show some chronological correlation with trends in breastfeeding rates. Although it is not possible to attribute this increase to the BFHI alone, there is ongoing interest in Ten Steps implementation and in BFHI. The continued growth may reflect the dedication of ministries of health and national BFHI groups, as well as increasing recognition that the Ten Steps are effective quality improvement practices that increase breastfeeding and synergize with community interventions and other program efforts. With renewed interest in maternal/neonatal health, revitalization of support for Ten Steps and their effective institutionalization in maternity practices should be considered. Future updates are planned to assess ongoing progress and impact, and ongoing updates from national committees are welcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion*
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals / trends
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Maternal-Child Health Centers
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Organizational Policy
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Postnatal Care / organization & administration*
  • Postnatal Care / trends
  • Pregnancy
  • Program Development*
  • Program Evaluation*
  • United Nations
  • World Health Organization