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Baby Friendly Hospitals in China

During my training as lactation consultant, I learned surprisingly enough that China has one of the largest numbers of Baby Friendly Hospitals (BFHI) world wide: 7,329 hospitals (whereas at the time Australia had for example 41 and the US 145). How can that be? After all, as I pointed out in a previous journal: there are no courses in Chinese available to get a hospital registered as a “Baby Friendly Hospital”. So, how can China have such a great number of Baby Friendly Hospitals? That is a good question indeed.

The hospital I work at has the BFHI sign up on their wall (see photo above). Do they meet all the requirements to get this accreditation? Judge for yourself: Hardly any baby is put to the breast within an hour after birth (we’re working on that though). I still have to meet the first mother who doesn’t supplement her baby with formula (this one is going to be a tough one to change). Mothers are given little or no help or support in their effort to breastfeed during their hospital stay. Once they’re discharged, there is no follow-up whatsoever. I talked to a friend of mine who had her baby six months earlier. After the initial weight at birth, the baby had not had a weight check since!!! The medical staff on the maternity ward has had hardly any lactation training (at least not until I started to provide some training…). There are no support groups in the area, no one to refer the mother to in case of problems. Nothing at all… And the situation at most other hospitals isn’t any different.

Are all BFHI hospitals like this? There are a few hospitals that meet the standard. I know that the lactation consultant at the Beijing United Family Hospital organised a course (in English!) for all their medical staff (who are all required to speak English since the hospital has so many foreign patients). It took a year, but they made it! And who knows, there is now a Chinese course to prepare medical people for the IBCLC exam… Next step is providing a Chinese course to help hospitals obtain proper BFHI registration?

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