FAQs on Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in Hong Kong

1. What is “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative”?

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF launched in 1991.

  • BFHI includes an assessment and accreditation scheme that recognises the achievement of hospitals in promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding.
  • A Baby-Friendly Hospital is committed to implementing the WHO/UNICEF Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as well as the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.
  • Baby-Friendly health facilities other than hospitals are an extension of BFHI.

2. Why do we need Baby-Friendly health facilities?

  • Breastfeeding lays the foundation for good health in infancy, childhood and adult life. It is also beneficial to both the psychological and physical health of mothers.  Baby-Friendly health facilities aim to create a health care environment that promotes and supports breastfeeding as the norm.
  • Baby-Friendly health facilities ensure that all parents make informed decisions about optimal feeding of their babies in their situation and are supported in their chosen feeding method.
  • Baby-Friendly health facilities support mothers to exclusively breastfeed their newborns for 6 months and sustain breastfeeding for up to 2 years or beyond if they so wish.
  • In Hong Kong, maternity units in hospitals and Maternal and Child Health Centres (MCHCs) provide the continuum of care that supports mothers to feed their babies optimally.

3.  Which organisation conducts assessments and awards Baby-Friendly Health Facilities in Hong Kong?

  • The assessment is conducted by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative Hong Kong Association (BFHIHKA). BFHIHKA was established by the Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF in 1994 to promote breastfeeding so as to protect infant and maternal health in Hong Kong.
  • The Hong Kong Committee for UNICEF is a supporting partner of BFHIHKA in its operation of the Baby-Friendly Health Facilities Designation Programme which is currently designating hospitals with maternity units and MCHCs as Baby-Friendly.

4.  How do hospitals and MCHCs in Hong Kong become designated as Baby-Friendly?

  • Hospitals and MCHCs have to go through a process involving 5 stages:
  When health facilities have… Health Facilities will be awarded….
1 Registered intention to work towards Baby-Friendly status within 5 years Certificate of Intent
2 Formulated Infant Feeding Policy and Action Plan Certificate of Commitment
3 Put in place mechanisms of implementation of Action Plan and monitoring of policy standards Certificate of Level 1 Participation
4 At least 80% of staff trained to have the knowledge and skills to implement the Infant Feeding Policy Certificate Level 2 Participation
5 The majority (according to WHO criteria) of mothers prepared to care for and feed their infants appropriately Baby-Friendly Health Facilities(Hospital or Maternal and Child Health Centre)
  • The award has to be revalidated every 3 years.

5. Do all mothers who attend a Baby-Friendly Hospital or Baby-Friendly Maternal and Child Health Centre have to breastfeed?

  • The staff of a Baby-Friendly Health Facility is expected to discuss with mothers the optimal means of feeding their babies in their situation and respect mothers’ informed choice.
  • Both breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers will be fully supported.
  • The practice of a Baby-Friendly Hospital / MCHC benefits both breastfeeding and formula feeding mothers and babies.

6. I would like to give feedback on the care I received from a health facility that has been designated as Baby-Friendly. Who should I approach?

  • A Health facility is designated Baby-Friendly if the assessment shows the  majority of mothers report that the care received at the facility meets the WHO / UNICEF standards.
  • Through participating in the Baby-Friendly Health Facility re-Designation Programme every 3 years, the facility is committed to a continuous quality improvement journey.
  • A Baby-Friendly Health Facility welcomes feedback and suggestions from its clients.  If you would like to give feedback on the care received, you may write to the Hospital Chief Executive / Maternal and Child Health Centre-in-charge, with a copy to the Baby-Friendly Co-ordinator of the hospital / centre.