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Baby-Friendly Initiative at SMDHU

Baby Friendly Initiative at SMDHU

The Baby Friendly Initiative is a global program created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in response to low rates of breastfeeding and infant mortality. This program encourages and recognizes facilities that offer an optimal level of care for mothers and infants.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit had used this program to focus on the needs of newborns and to help mothers and families give ALL infants, regardless of how they are fed, the best possible start in life. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit strives to support mothers to successfully initiate and continue to breastfeed their babies through the implementation of the Baby Friendly Initiative.

Hospitals and community health centers worldwide can receive the Baby–Friendly designation. This means that they have proven that their practices encourage and help women to successfully initiate and continue to breastfeed their babies and supports the safe feeding and informed decision making for parents that do not breastfeed. 


What is the Baby-Friendly Initiative?

It’s a system that promotes, protects and supports breastfeeding all over the world. The goal of BFI is to get more mothers to start breastfeeding their newborns and to help them breastfeed exclusively and for longer. It also works to promote healthy development for all babies.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) created the Baby-Friendly Initiative in 1991. They were responding to rising rates of child illness and death that were linked to a drop in breastfeeding.

The WHO recommends the practice of “exclusivity”, which means feeding only breast milk and no additional water, breast milk substitutes, other liquids or solid foods. Expressed breast milk, vitamins, minerals and medicine are also acceptable, when needed.

It accepts that some families will decide not to breastfeed. These families will also get support and education on safe and nurturing ways to feed their babies.

Why is it called the Baby-Friendly Initiative?

The reason the program is called Baby-Friendly Initiative is because it involves policies, staff education and support to ensure the best health outcomes for all mothers and babies. It supports such things as informed decision making and skin to skin care regardless of the feeding decisions families make.

How Does the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit support the Baby-Friendly Initiative?

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is working on becoming designated as Baby-Friendly. We are striving to have all employees trained to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. We also want to make sure our offices are welcoming to families, including comfortable spaces where those breastfeeding moms who desire privacy can go if they wish.

You can read a summary of our Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s BFI Policy Poster.

What place might be designated Baby-Friendly?

Any hospital or community health service may decide to create policies and staff training that will give them the tools to provide the best possible care for babies and families.

What does it take to become Baby-Friendly?

There are 10 steps a facility must take to become designated as Baby-Friendly. These steps will help you as a parent learn to make decisions about feeding your baby.  Facts and research are available to help organizations support families within their spaces and in the community at large. As well as following those steps, the facility has to show that it conforms to the WHO Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes, which calls for controls over marketing of breast milk substitutes. “Breast milk substitute” includes any food represented as a replacement for breast milk, such as formula, whole milk, evaporated cow's milk, juice, teas, glucose water, or solid foods.

Read about the 10 steps here

Where can I go for more information on the Baby-Friendly Initiative?

Call a public health nurse at Your Health Connection, 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520. Someone is available to talk Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• Breastfeeding Committee of Canada (English / Francais)

Baby-Friendly Initiative Ontario

World Health Organization


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