Giving a boost to baby-friendly hospitals
Bucharest, 17 December 2009 – UNICEF Romania and the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 23 maternity facilities have been awarded the baby-friendly hospital designation.
Launched in 1991 by UNICEF and WHO, the baby-friendly hospital initiative is an effort to turn all maternities into centres that support and promote breastfeeding. All studies show that mothers benefit significantly from knowledge about the positive effects of breastfeeding on their children. Research indicates that breastfeeding is beneficial to mothers and children alike. It is also a significant source of saving for the health care system and employers. Studies found that a breastfed child faces fewer risks of getting an acute infection or suffering from chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes and obesity.
Furthermore, a breastfed child will benefit from better psychological and intellectual development; he/she will be more emotionally stable; and his/her intelligence quotient can gain up to 8 points. At first sight, this may not seem much, but this IQ increase can be significant for the child, on the one hand, and for the mother and society, on the other hand. Sometimes, examples are given of bright socially adjusted people who were not breastfed, supporting the idea that IQ is all about genetics and education, which is perfectly right.
But, let’s have a look at the other side of the story: A child with a less fortunate genetic inheritance, who grows up in a learning-unfriendly environment could benefit greatly from those 6-8 points. To him/her, these points can make all the difference between a normal intellect and a poor one. In this case, an IQ increase of 6-8 points can propel the child from medium intellect to high intellect.
According to the same studies, breastfeeding women incur a smaller risk of diabetes, (ovarian or breast) cancer or baby blues. Although it all comes down to just a couple of days, what is going on in the maternity plays a major role in breastfeeding promotion and in supporting the mother to continue breastfeeding after she leaves the hospital. For all these reasons, we should all do everything in our power to improve professionals’ and mothers’ knowledge, confidence and skills, and the best place to start is the maternity hospital.
At present, in Romania, 35 of a total of 204 birth facilities are actively involved in the Initiative: 23 were awarded the baby-friendly hospital designation, 3 received the Certificate of Commitment (they meet at least 7 of the 10 criteria), 2 are undergoing an assessment and 7 received the Certificate of Intent (they follow certain steps in a full or partial manner). All these maternities bring into the world over one third of Romanian children.
For a maternity to become baby-friendly hospital it needs to fulfil a set of 10 criteria (Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding) which stand for international mother and baby care standards; they have nothing to do with a hotel-like setting or high costs, they are just care provision rules. In terms of benefit-cost ratio, breastfeeding promotion and the baby-friendly hospital initiative are the most effective public health interventions.
“Children born in these maternities will get the best start in life, and they will be healthier, more intelligent and more emotionally balanced. Mothers will be happier, and the health care system will spend less on their care provision. This project aims at the development to the fullest of all Romanian children. The UNICEF goal is to make sure that, in the long run, all Romanian maternities can embrace Baby-Friendly practices and for this to happen we will continue to assist the Ministry of Health in supporting and carrying on the baby-friendly hospital initiative.” declared Mr. Edmond McLoughney, UNICEF Representative in Romania.
Baby-friendly hospital initiative maternities have received technical and financial assistance from UNICEF Romania through the generosity of private companies and Romanian citizens’ individual contributions during a May 2008 Telethon run in partnership with Romanian Television.
You can find more about the baby-friendly hospital initiative, about breastfeeding benefits and mass-media involvement in child health and wellbeing on the new (born) website: www.spitalprieten.ro or www.spital-prieten.ro.
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