WHO/UNICEF release 10 steps to successful breastfeeding

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF has issued new ten-step guidance to increase support for breastfeeding in health facilities that provide maternity and newborn services.

Breastfeeding all babies for the first two years would save the lives of more than 820,000 children under age 5 annually.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding underpin the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, which both organizations launched in 1991.

The practical guidance encourages new mothers to breastfeed and informs health workers how best to support breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is vital to a child’s lifelong health, and reduces costs for health facilities, families, and governments.

Breastfeeding within the first hour of birth protects newborn babies from infections and saves lives. Infants are at greater risk of death due to diarrhoea and other infections when they are only partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.

Breastfeeding also improves IQ, school readiness and attendance, and is associated with higher income in adult life. It also reduces the risk of breast cancer in the mother.

“Breastfeeding saves lives. Its benefits help keep babies healthy in their first days and last well into adulthood,” says UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore.

“But breastfeeding requires support, encouragement and guidance. With these basic steps implemented properly, we can significantly improve breastfeeding rates around the world and give children the best possible start in life.” She added.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says that in many hospitals and communities around the world, whether a child can be breastfed or not can make the difference between life and death, and whether a child will develop to reach his or her full potential.

“Hospitals are not there just to cure the ill. They are there to promote life and ensure people can thrive and live their lives to their full potential,” says Dr Tedros. “As part of every country’s drive to achieve universal health coverage, there is no better or more crucial place to start than by ensuring the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding are the standard for care of mothers and their babies.”

The new guidance describes practical steps countries should take to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in facilities providing maternity and newborn services.

They provide the immediate health system platform to help mothers initiate breastfeeding within the first hour and breastfeed exclusively for six months.

It describes how hospitals should have a written breastfeeding policy in place, staff competencies, and antenatal and post-birth care, including breastfeeding support for mothers.

It also recommends limited use of breastmilk substitutes, rooming-in, responsive feeding, educating parents on the use of bottles and pacifiers, and support when mothers and babies are discharged from hospital.

The Ten Steps are based on the WHO guidelines, issued in November 2017, titled Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding in facilities providing maternity and newborn services.

Early initiation of breastfeeding, within one hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality. Starting breastfeeding early increases the chances of a successful continuation of breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months has many benefits for the infant and mother. Chief among these is protection against gastrointestinal infections and malnutrition, which are observed not only in developing but also industrialized countries.

Breast-milk is also an important source of energy and nutrients in children aged 6–23 months. It can provide half or more of a child’s energy needs between 6-12 months, and one-third of energy needs between 12-24 months. Breast-milk is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness, and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished.

Children and adolescents who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese.

Ten steps to successful breastfeeding (revised 2018)

WHO and UNICEF launched the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) to help motivate facilities providing maternity and newborn services worldwide to implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The Ten Steps summarize a package of policies and procedures that facilities providing maternity and newborn services should implement to support breastfeeding. WHO has called upon all facilities providing maternity and newborn services worldwide to implement the Ten Steps.

The implementation guidance for BFHI emphasizes strategies to scale up to universal coverage and ensure sustainability over time. The guidance focuses on integrating the programme more fully in the health-care system, to ensure that all facilities in a country implement the Ten Steps. Countries are called upon to fulfill nine key responsibilities through a national BFHI programme:

Ten steps to successful breastfeeding

Critical management procedures

1a. Comply fully with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.

1b. Have a written infant feeding policy that is routinely communicated to staff and parents.

1c. Establish ongoing monitoring and data-management systems.

2. Ensure that staff have sufficient knowledge, competence and skills to support breastfeeding.

Key clinical practices

3. Discuss the importance and management of breastfeeding with pregnant women and their families.

4. Facilitate immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and support mothers to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.

5. Support mothers to initiate and maintain breastfeeding and manage common difficulties.

6. Do not provide breastfed newborns any food or fluids other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.

7. Enable mothers and their infants to remain together and to practise rooming-in 24 hours a day.

8. Support mothers to recognize and respond to their infants’ cues for feeding.

9. Counsel mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.

10. Coordinate discharge so that parents and their infants have timely access to ongoing support and care.

There is substantial evidence that implementing the Ten Steps significantly improves breastfeeding rates. A systematic review of 58 studies on maternity and newborn care published in 2016 demonstrated clearly that adherence to the Ten Steps impacts early initiation of breastfeeding immediately after birth, exclusive breastfeeding and total duration of breastfeeding

Published by Wonderlady

Journalist, Educationist, Writer, Human Rights Advocate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s