I am a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) nurse and the hospital where I work delivers more than 2,000 babies annually, over half from high-risk pregnancies. In our part of the country, “natural parenting” is widely embraced, and it is difficult to find a hospital that isn’t “Baby-Friendly.” Our hospital administration views the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) designation as a marketing tool, hoping new parents will choose our hospital to deliver their babies. Any criticism of the BFHI risks a backlash.
COMPLICATIONS on the mother-baby unit
Since our hospital became BFHI certified, NICU admissions for acute starvation while exclusively breastfeeding have escalated to at least 4 admissions weekly. (It should be zero.) Fortunately, once the baby reaches the doors of the NICU, we are free from the BFHI protocol. We are not, however, free from all the indoctrination the parents have already received, and they’ve received an impressive and dangerous amount. We require verbal consent and a physician’s order for donor milk use, but only low birth weight babies qualify for that. We also require a physician’s or Neonatal Nurse Practitioner’s (NNP) order for formula milk use. It is not uncommon for parents to request IV fluids over formula supplementation.