Posted by: Admin | July 4, 2011

A gift for all mothers – The Baby-Friendly Initiative

In 2003, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay passed a resolution “that the CBHSSJB adopt the ministry guidelines on breastfeeding” and that it “adhere to the priorities stated in the guidelines.” This resolution refers to the provincial ministry’s breastfeeding guidelines published in 2001, “L’allaitement maternel au Québec – Lignes directrices.” Here is the link where you can find the full pdf document, but it is available only in French:

These guidelines refer to the Baby-Friendly Initiative (BFI) as the strategy to be used in all Québec health facilities to increase the quality of care given to pregnant women, mothers and babies, which in turn will increase the breastfeeding rates. The BFI, when implemented in a health facility, does not only benefit breastfeeding mothers and children, but all mothers and babies even if they are not breastfeeding. The primary goal of the BFI is to ensure that all babies are provided with a safe and secure source of food. Naturally, the most secure (as it is produces freely and copiously by women) and the safest (as it is in a sterile container and has no risk of being contaminated while being processed) is breastmilk! So many of the actions to be implemented are related to breastfeeding, but the BFI also considers mothers who will not breastfeed: it requires that health care workers show those mothers how to prepare their baby’s artificial milk. The BFI has many additional points that will help all mothers and babies. It requires that:

1) The facility adopt a policy which guaranties mothers and babies will get the best care.

2) The staff get a minimum of 18 hours of training on breastfeeding and on the BFI, so that all staff members give out the same evidence-based information.

3) All pregnant women get information and counselling on the benefits and management of breastfeeding to ensure the women make an informed choice and are successful in this choice.

4) All mothers get their babies in skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth so both mother and child can easily adapt to this new life.

5) All mothers are taught about breastfeeding management or advised on how to safely prepare artificial milk for their babies to ensure the baby has access to a safe and secure food.

6) All babies receive only breastmilk, unless an artificial milk supplement is medically indicated or if the mother decides otherwise, so they can receive all the physical and emotional health benefits conferred by exclusive breastfeeding.

7) All mothers and babies stay together 24 hours out of 24, so mothers have the chance to get to know their baby while also being supported by staff.

8 ) All babies are breastfed on demand to make sure they receive all the milk they need (same goes for artificial milk fed babies).

9) No babies are encouraged to use artificial teats (bottles, pacifiers, nipple shield), so that breastfeeding gets off to a good start and the babies receive sufficient milk.

10) All facilities and communities provide the mothers with support once they leave the facility where they gave birth.

Some people might think the BFI cannot be fully implemented in Eeyou Itschee as our mothers always give birth at hospitals outside of the Cree territory, but this is false. All healing centers in Eeyou Itschee are required to give the best quality of care and to follow the BFI’s Ten steps. If some of the steps cannot be applied directly (such as Step 4 related to birth), they can still be addressed in prenatal or postnatal meetings. For instance, the information about skin-to-skin contact with the baby should be given to the mother in prenatal sessions, and she should be encouraged to ask for this contact wherever she gives birth. Also, once the mother returns in her community, she should get the support described in the BFI from all health care workers!

Stay tuned for reports of BFI implementation in other native communities! 🙂

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