What is a Baby-Friendly hospital?

Have you heard of baby-friendly hospitals but never really understood what that meant?

According to their website: ” The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. “

Hospitals have go through several steps to receive the BFHI designation. Most importantly they train their staff  on how to give mothers the information, confidence and skills to successfully initiate breastfeeding. The staff has more training compared to hospitals that aren’t a part of the program. This additional training helps them better prepare mothers on  how to safely feed their newborn. While breastfeeding is one of the main platforms of the BFHI there are several other aspects to the accreditation that are beneficial to all mothers and babies. The full list is listed here:

The U.S. BFHI Guidelines and Evaluation Criteria and the assessment and accreditation processes are predicated on the following tenets:

  1. Well-constructed, comprehensive policies effectively guide staff to deliver evidence-based care.
  2. Well-trained staff provide current, evidence-based care.
  3. Monitoring of practice is required to assure adherence to policy.
  4. Breastfeeding has been recognized by scientific authorities as the optimal method of infant feeding and should be promoted as the norm within all maternal and child health care facilities.
  5. The most sound and effective procedural approaches to supporting breastfeeding and human lactation in the birthing environment that have been documented in the scientific literature to date should be followed by the health facility.
  6. The health care delivery environment should be neither restrictive nor punitive and should facilitate informed health care decisions on the part of the mother and her family.
  7. The health care delivery environment should be sensitive to cultural and social diversity.
  8. The mother and her family should be protected within the health care setting from false or misleading product promotion and/or advertising which interferes with or undermines informed choices regarding infant health care practices.
  9. When a mother has chosen not to breastfeed, when supplementation of breastfeeding is medically indicated, or when supplementation is chosen by the breastfeeding mother (after appropriate counseling and education), it is crucial that safe and appropriate methods of formula mixing, handling, storage, and feeding are taught to the parents.
  10. Recognition as a Baby-Friendly institution should have both national and international credibility and prestige, so that it is marketable to the community, increases demand, and thereby improves motivation among facilities to participate in the Initiative.
  11. Participation of any facility in the U.S. BFHI is entirely voluntary and is available to any institution providing birthing services. Each participating facility assumes full responsibility for assuring that its implementation of the BFHI is consistent with all of its safety protocols.

To find if your hospital is a part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative check out their website. Baby-Friendly USA

Birth Plans 101

A birth plan is a way to communicate your expectations and preferences for labor, delivery, postpartum recovery, and newborn care. Birth is unpredictable so you need to have flexibility in your birth plan. But a printed document gives you a place to make your wishes clear.

You should do your research and be very educated about your choices regarding your birth. Knowing what the standard procedures are at your place of birth is important when creating your birth plan. Plan on discussing your birth plan with your provider during your third trimester. Discussing your wishes for birth with your provider will ensure that you are both on the same page and gives you a realistic view of what your options are for birth given your specific medical history.

Plan for the unexpected. No one goes into birth desiring things to go off plan. But it is helpful to have a plan incase the situation changes.

Include sections for infant care and postpartum recovery. Your desires for care after delivery are important.

As a doula I help my clients gather their wishes into an easy to read document that clearly expresses their wishes for their birth.

Why should you hire a doula?

There have been several studies recently on the benefits a doula can have on your birth outcome. Many people still assume that a doula is only for those who want a “natural” birth. Doulas are there to support a laboring woman in whatever way that woman desires. Whether you are having an unmedicated birth, an epidural, an induction, or a caesarean a doula can support you through your pregnancy and labor.

Journal of Perinatal Education

Top 10 reasons you should hire a doula:

  1. A doula has knowledge and experience about labor and birth to provide answers to questions about the birthing process
  2. A doula provides constant support during labor
  3. A doula supports you before and after labor, not just during it.
  4. A doula learns your wishes and desires for your labor and birth and helps you achieve them
  5. A doula provides support to your partner so they feel confident and comfortable assisting during labor
  6. A doula can help lower birth risks
  7. A doula helps you get information for informed decision making
  8. A doula can help you with breastfeeding if that’s what you desire
  9. A doula provides encouragement and support without judgement
  10. A doula is there for YOU! Her primary focus is supporting you however you need.

Why I wanted a doula

Some people have not heard of a doula before and others are well informed about who they are and what they offer. Personally I did not know what a doula was before the birth of my first child. I did my research, created a birth plan, and headed to the hospital with a plan but also relying on my doctor to provide the best birth experience for me.

The birth of my first child didn’t go as planned. My birth plan went out the window as soon as I was admitted to the hospital (on our 4th trip in 2 days). I was exhausted, it was my first child, and I didn’t have support to stick to “my plan”. My daughter was still delivered safely and both of us were healthy but her birth had not gone the way I had hoped.

By the time I got pregnant with our second child I knew I wanted her birth to be different. I wanted to be more prepared to have the birth I desired….enter in a DOULA. In the time between having my first child and getting pregnant with my second I had met a doula. She told me about what she did and why. I knew having a doula was the answer to my desire for a different birth story. For me the cost was definitely worth it despite being an out of pocket expense. Having someone there to support me and my husband as I prepared myself for what I assumed would be another long labor seemed invaluable. I had someone who I could talk to about my concerns; someone who had experience and knowledge of labor techniques and positions, and most importantly someone who would be with me the whole labor.

The birth of my second child was very different than my first. I did even more research, I hired a doula, and made a birth plan that was respected and followed. I felt more confident in my body’s ability to birth naturally and felt fully supported throughout the whole labor.

What does being a doula mean to me?

A doula as defined by DONA International is :

a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.

My desire as a doula is to help mothers and their partners have the best possible birth experience. Whether it be medicated or unmedicated. There are an overwhelming number of options in birth and my desire is to provide credible information about the various options so that a mother can make an informed decision about what she desires for her birth. Every woman has a different vision of what her ideal birth would look like. It is not my place to tell you how your ideal birth should look but rather support you in the decisions you have made. I bring personal and professional experience as well as knowledge gained from training and research.