Baby Friendly Hospitals

mother feeding her baby in nature outdoors in the parkThe Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a worldwide program launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding. In 2012, 21,138 facilities in 152 countries were designated Baby Friendly.

Baby Friendly USA (BFUSA) is the US accrediting body for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Currently, 182 US hospitals and birth centers in 43 states and the District of Columbia are designated as Baby Friendly. Here’s a list of Baby-Friendly Hospitals in the US.


Healthy People 2020, an initiative of the US Department of Health and Human Services, calls for 8.1% of US hospitals to be Baby Friendly by 2020. Currently 6.9% of US hospitals are Baby Friendly, up from 2.9% in 2009.


In order to be designated as Baby Friendly, a hospital or birth center must follow The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The Ten Steps are endorsed and promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the US Surgeon General, among others.


  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
  • Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  • Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice “rooming-in” — allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand
  • Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.


A 2012 Pediatrics study found that two-thirds of mothers who intend to exclusively breastfeed are not meeting their goals. More than 85% of mothers intend to exclusively breastfeed for three months or more, but only 32.4% do so.

The study, “Baby-Friendly Hospital Practices and Meeting Exclusive Breastfeeding Intention,” found that beginning breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and not giving supplemental feedings or pacifiers were associated with achieving the exclusive breastfeeding goal. The study concludes that increased Baby-Friendly Hospital practices, particularly giving only breast milk in the hospital, help women to meet their breastfeeding goals


In “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all women exclusively breastfeed for six months, but according to the CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card, only 16.4% of women were exclusively breastfeeding at six months in 2013. This is a national average however. For example, 27% of moms were exclusively breastfeeding in Alaska, California and Idaho and just 4.1% in Tennessee. The Healthy People 2020 target objective is 25.2% exclusively breastfeeding through six months.


PEGGY-headshotPeggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of  She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011 and founded in 1995. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of two.

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Peggy O'Mara

About Peggy O'Mara

Editor and Publisher of Longtime natural living advocate, award winning writer, and independent thinker.

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