Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)

WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched BFHI in 1992, to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding. BFHI aims to give every baby the best start in life by creating a health care environment where breastfeeding is the norm, thus helping to reduce the levels of infant morbidity and mortality in each country. Its objectives are:

  • to enable mothers to make an informed choice about how to feed their newborn babies;
  • to support early initiation of breastfeeding;
  • to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months;
  • to ensure the cessation of free and low-cost infant formula supply to hospitals;
  • to include, possibly at a later stage and where needed, other mother and infant health care issues.

To help in the implementation of the initiative, different tools and materials were developed, field-tested and provided, including a course for maternity staff, a self-appraisal tool and an external assessment tool. Additional tools were developed afterwards, such as monitoring and reassessment tools.

The revised BFHI package includes:

  • background and implementation of the initiative;
  • all material for training/raising the awareness of policy and decision-makers in relation to BFHI and infant and young child feeding in general;
  • a 20-hour course for training facility staff (clinical and non-clinical);
  • self-appraisal and monitoring tools;
  • assessment and re-assessment tools.

How to join

Maternity facilities interested in joining the BFHI network can contact their national breastfeeding committee, WHO or UNICEF. They can assess what is needed to achieve BFHI status by using the hospital self-appraisal tool. When the hospital complies with all the stated criteria, it can then request external assessment, which is organized by the national authorities. The assessment is a rigorous procedure, and carried out by internationally trained professionals. If assessed positively, the hospital is designated a Baby-Friendly Hospital and receives a plaque and certificate of commitment.