The Impact in the United States of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative on Early Infant Health and Breastfeeding Outcomes

Breastfeed Med. 2016 Jun;11(5):222-30. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2015.0135. Epub 2016 Apr 15.


Studies were examined to evaluate the impact of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) on breastfeeding and early infant health outcomes in U.S.

Populations: Using the Social Ecological Model as a guiding theoretical framework, results were categorized into four interrelated multilevel factors: (1) maternal/infant dyad factors, (2) provider factors, (3) hospital organizational factors, and (4) policy/systems factors. Results from the review support the BFHI's success in facilitating successful breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity. Breastfeeding duration also appears to increase when mothers have increased exposure to Baby-Friendly practices, but deficiencies in breastfeeding tracking mechanisms have limited reliable breastfeeding duration data. Of the 10 steps of the BFHI, step 3, prenatal education and step 10, postnatal breastfeeding support are the most difficult steps to implement; however, those steps have the potential to significantly impact maternal breastfeeding decisions. The underlying mechanisms by which Baby-Friendly practices contribute to maternal breastfeeding decisions remain unclear; thus, studies are needed to examine mothers' experiences and perceptions of Baby-Friendly practices. Additionally, studies are needed to investigate the impact of the BFHI for women living in rural areas and in southeastern regions of the United States. Finally, studies are needed to examine early infant health outcomes related to the BFHI, especially for late premature infants (34-36 weeks) who are most vulnerable to poor outcomes and are in need of specialized breastfeeding support. Results from future qualitative and quantitative explorations could clarify how the delivery of Baby-Friendly practices leads to successful breastfeeding and infant health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Promotion*
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Health / standards*
  • Mothers*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Postnatal Care / organization & administration*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology