In April, we’ll be talking about that key BFHI step - the creation and dissemination of an infant feeding policy. Writing a policy that guides how a facility treats infant feeding requires more than just drafting a policy document that gets filed into a binder.
Policy can (and should) change practice, even as changes in attitudes and beliefs among staff and patients may take time. An infant feeding policy signals to staff, patients and the public what they can expect from the facility and how it will be measured. An infant feeding policy should include:
All Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
Commitment to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and all relevant subsequent WHA resolutions
Statement supporting all parents, regardless of how their infant or child is fed
Information about how the policy is monitored
The work of creating an infant feeding policy begins with the BFHI lead or committee, but requires the input and agreement of many others, who may never participate in the BFHI Committee itself. This is because while much of the implementation of the 10 Steps touches clinical practice, the facility itself has to create an environment that supports quality improvement and sustains those changes to build on them.
Developing and communicating an infant feeding policy is a “big tent” exercise, bringing together all those who care for new families, as well as administrators and managers throughout the facility. Many departments within a modern health care organization are impacted by an infant feeding policy, most of which do not have expertise in infant feeding or related issues.
Moreover, as family-centered care is the goal, the participation of patients and community liaisons in BFHI committees is important all the way through the process, not just in the planning and delivery of the final policy and public communications.
While this process takes time and significant outreach, there are benefits beyond the quality of the policy itself. Those who have participated in the creation of a policy and whose work has been valued and included in that process are more likely to sustain the positive practices and champion further change to improve quality.
World Health Organization. (2021). Code and subsequent resolutions. Accessed April 7 2021 at https://www.who.int/nutrition/netcode/resolutions/en/
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Last Updated: September 2018