by Teri Hohl, DC, CACCP, CLC and Becca Keyes, DC

When it comes to giving newborns the best start in life, Baby-Friendly hospitals are the gold standard. These hospitals follow specific guidelines to support new mothers and their babies, ensuring successful breastfeeding from the beginning. Let’s dive into why these hospitals are so important and how early skin-to-skin contact makes a big difference for both mom and baby.

What Makes a Hospital Baby-Friendly?

Baby-Friendly hospitals follow the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. These steps include:

  1. Have a clear breastfeeding policy.
  2. Train staff to help mothers breastfeed.
  3. Inform pregnant women about the benefits of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers start breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and keep up their milk supply.
  6. Give newborns only breast milk, unless medically necessary.
  7. Allow mothers and babies to stay together 24/7.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Avoid giving pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding babies.
  10. Support breastfeeding groups and refer mothers to them when they leave the hospital.

The Power of Skin-to-Skin Contact

One key practice in Baby-Friendly hospitals is helping mothers and babies have skin-to-skin contact right after birth, whether it’s a natural delivery or a cesarean section. This early bonding time is incredibly important for the baby’s development and breastfeeding success.

How Skin-to-Skin Helps the Baby

When a newborn is placed on their mother’s chest, it helps regulate their heartbeat, breathing, and temperature. This close contact also reduces the baby’s stress, helping them feel safe and calm. All of these factors are crucial for the baby’s adjustment to life outside the womb and help develop a healthy nervous system.

Boosting Breastfeeding Success

Skin-to-skin contact also makes breastfeeding easier. Babies naturally know how to find the breast and start feeding when they are close to their mother. This early start helps mothers produce more milk and ensures babies get colostrum, the first milk that is packed with nutrients and antibodies.

Keeping the Connection Strong

The benefits of skin-to-skin contact don’t stop after the first hour. Returning to skin-to-skin time can continue to help the baby’s nervous system and support breastfeeding. Here’s how:

  • Calming effect: Skin-to-skin contact helps babies relax and sleep better.
  • Breastfeeding support: It can help fix breastfeeding issues and strengthen the baby’s latch.
  • Bonding: This close time helps mothers and babies bond, which is important for the baby’s emotional development.
  • Baby-Friendly hospitals play a crucial role in supporting new mothers and their babies. By following specific guidelines and promoting skin-to-skin contact, they ensure that babies have the best start in life. This early bonding time helps regulate the baby’s nervous system, boosts breastfeeding success, and fosters a strong emotional bond between mother and child. 

University of Cincinnati as of this publishing is the only hospital that has kept its baby friendly status in the Cincinnati area!