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The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative

But to move in that direction and become Baby-Friendly, mother holding her baby

Expectant mothers who deliver at Johns Hopkins are offered true “couplet care” after delivery, providing the best possible start for infants.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital is designated as Baby-Friendly by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund in 1991 to recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother-baby bonding.

Awarded on December 29, 2015, for a period of five years, this designation recognizes that The Johns Hopkins Hospital has implemented principles outlined in BFHI’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.”

Q: Why was it important for The Johns Hopkins Hospital to become Baby-Friendly?

A: Evidence-based medicine is practiced here at Johns Hopkins in order to provide patients with the best possible care. We know that breastfeeding and immediate mother-baby bonding are the keys to a healthy start in the life of a newborn. We had to undergo a change in the way that we deliver care in order to transition and become a Baby-Friendly designated facility.

Q: What changes were made?

A: After more than five years of significant changes in policies, protocols, and practice, we were awarded the new status. In years past, a woman would deliver the baby, and the newborn would be taken to a central nursery. There, the baby would be placed under a warmer to help stabilize it's body temperature. The pediatricians and nurses would perform their assessments and administer any medications that might be needed.

Now, once the baby is delivered — give both mother and baby are healthy — the baby immediately gets uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact with the mother for the first hour of life. Complete mother-baby couplet care without separation has been a major change in care. Additionally, clinicians now perform the assessments in front of the parent(s) so they can ask questions.

We also promote exclusive breastfeeding, including offering breastfeeding classes and support groups. Board-certified lactation consultants are on our team, and all of our perinatal nurses and clinicians have had additional breastfeeding training.

We stress the importance of breast milk and its nutritional value to babies. The nursing staff is committed to exclusive breast-feeding for all of our patients and is dedicated to help new moms be successful with breastfeeding.

Q: How does skin-to-skin contact affect newborns?

A: Nationwide studies show that babies who have skin-to-skin contact have lowered heart rate and cortisol levels. Mothers also benefit, often feeling less pain because they are concentrating on the newborn. Even beyond the first hour of life, there are documented physiological benefits to newborns having their mothers nearby. JHH no longer has a central nursery, and babies are permitted as well as encouraged to stay with their mothers, as long as both parties are in good health.

Q: Are all hospitals practicing this type of perinatal care?

A: No, there are hospitals that bring the babies central nursery to a warmer after birth. Here, we do everything in the presence of the mothers after they have initiated their first breastfeeding.

Receiving the Baby-Friendly designation is difficult because you have to change longstanding policies, protocols, and behaviors. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative includes a very rigorous credentialing process that includes a two-day site visit, where assessors evaluate policies, community partnerships and education plans, as well as interview patients, physicians and staff members.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital is the third hospital in Maryland and the first in Baltimore City to be certified. Only 14 percent of hospitals have achieved this status nationally.

This  was a remarkable accomplishment for The Johns Hopkins Hospital and was awarded thanks to the efforts of a multidisciplinary team extending across the Department of OB/GYN and the Department of Pediatrics. Both groups are committed to serving mothers and their newborns in anticipation of ensuring the optimal delivery experience.

Learn more about the birthing center, breastfeeding classes and support groups at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.


4 Tips for Successful Breastfeeding:

  1. Use breastfeeding language. Use affirmative language, rather than hedging your bets. Say, "I'm going to breastfeed," instead of, "I will try," "I hope" or "I think."
  2. Set up your home for a positive breastfeeding experience. Only bring items that facilitate breastfeeding into your home. Avoid bringing in bottles and formula. You'll be less tempted to use them if you don't have them nearby.
  3. Surround yourself with other women who have successfully breastfed. If you don't have friends or family in this category, there are Johns Hopkins support groups for breastfeeding.
  4. Take a breastfeeding class before you give birth. Preparing in advance will help allay any fears or concerns you may have and make you feel at ease when your baby is born.