The impact of the Baby Friendly health Initiative in the Australian health care system: A critical narrative review of the evidence

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Journal Article
Breastfeeding Review, 2013, 21 (2), pp. 15 - 22
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Studies have identified that the practices of maternity facilities and health professionals are crucial to women's experience of support and breastfeeding 'success'. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched globally in 1991 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. While a direct causal effect has not been established and critics suggest the rhetoric conflicts with women's lived experiences as new mothers, a positive association between the Initiative and breastfeeding prevalence is apparent. Internationally, impact studies have demonstrated that where the Initiative is well integrated, there is an increase in rates of breastfeeding initiation and, to a lesser extent, duration. In consideration of the known health risks associated with the use of artificial baby milks this would suggest that BFHI implementation and accreditation should be a desirable strategy for committed health facilities. However, a variation in both BFHI uptake and breastfeeding prevalence between nations has been reported. This narrative review critically discusses a variety of issues relevant to the uptake and support of breastfeeding and the BFHI, utilising Australia as a case study. Whilst it enjoys 'in principle' policy support, Australia also suffers from a lack of uniformity in uptake and perception of the benefits of BFHI at all levels of the health system. Australian and international studies have identified similar enablers and barriers to implementation.
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