Efforts to Encourage Breastfeeding Like the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) May Have Unintended Consequences

Harriet Hall on August 30, 2016

“Breast is best,” but current efforts to increase the rate of breastfeeding may be misguided. A recent article in JAMA Pediatrics by pediatricians Joel Bass, Tina Gartley, and Ronald Kleinman is titled “Unintended Consequences of Current Breastfeeding Initiatives.” They criticize the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), saying “there is now emerging evidence that full compliance…may inadvertently be promoting potentially hazardous practices and/or having counterproductive outcomes.”

Conclusion: We should think again about the BFHI

The BFHI seemed like a good idea at the time, but evidence-based concerns have been raised and draconian implementation of BFHI policies may be harmful. Hospitals have achieved a greater than 90% breastfeeding initiation rate while allowing pacifiers and allowing mothers to put their babies in the nursery part-time. Most doctors agree that bottle-feeding is also a healthy option and that women who are unable to breastfeed for medical reasons or who decide not to breastfeed for personal or practical reasons should be supported and not made to feel guilty. A growing number of women are speaking out about how badly treated they felt at BFHI-certified facilities.

Read more at Science-Based Medicine.