New guidance to increase breastfeeding support

By Julie Griffiths on 12 April 2018 UNICEF Breastfeeding World Health Organisation

WHO and UNICEF have issued new guidance to increase support for breastfeeding in health facilities that provide maternity and newborn services.

The Ten steps to successful breastfeeding underpin the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and encourage new mothers to breastfeed and informs health workers how best to support breastfeeding.

The new guidance explains practical steps countries should take to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in facilities providing maternity and newborn services.

It describes how hospitals should have a written breastfeeding policy in place, staff competencies, and antenatal and postnatal care, including breastfeeding support for mothers.

It also recommends limited use of breastmilk substitutes, rooming-in, responsive feeding, educating parents on the use of bottles and pacifiers, and support when mothers and babies are discharged from hospital.

UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said: ‘Breastfeeding saves lives. Its benefits help keep babies healthy in their first days and last will into adulthood, but breastfeeding requires support, encouragement and guidance. With these basic steps, implemented properly, we can significantly improve breastfeeding rates around the world and give children the best possible start in life.’

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that in many hospitals and communities around the world, whether a child can be breastfed or not can make the difference between life and death, and whether a child will develop to reach his or her full potential.

He added: ‘As part of every country’s drive to achieve universal health coverage, there is no better or more crucial place to start than by ensuring the Ten steps to successful breastfeeding are the standard for care of mothers and their babies.’

Read the new guidance here.