Twenty Years Baby-Friendly: Personal Reflections on Change

This article was originally published here

Breastfeed Med. 2021 May 6. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2020.0374. Online ahead of print.


Background: Boston Medical Center (BMC) is an inner-city hospital located in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1995, like many maternity hospitals in the United States, BMC had policies that routinely separated mothers from their babies, limited breastfeeding education for staff, provided no hospital-funded lactation consultants, and did not initiate any limitations on the presence of the formula industry in the hospital. This all changed in 1999 when BMC became the first Baby-Friendly designated hospital in Massachusetts and the 22nd in the nation. Objective: Describe challenges encountered on the hospital’s journey to Baby-Friendly and subsequent re-designations and share strategies used to overcome them. Materials and Methods: Policy changes and new programs instituted over the twenty-year period are described as well as personal reflections on change by the author. Results: Over the time period chronicled, improvements in breastfeeding initiation and exclusivity rates were observed. From 1997 to 2019, the breastfeeding initiation rate increased from 53% to 90% and the exclusive breastfeeding rate increased from 6% to 50-60%. Delivery volume at the hospital increased from 1600 to 2850 births per year in the same time period. Following the Ten Steps is an important way to decrease racial disparity gaps. Conclusions: Change is possible in the hospital setting. Achieving and maintaining Baby-Friendly designation is a successful strategy to increase maternity unit breastfeeding rates.

PMID:33960842 | DOI:10.1089/bfm.2020.0374