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Supporting Baby-Friendly Hospitals for Breastfeeding in Kyrgyz Republic

Healthcare worker working with mother holding infant

Launched in 1991, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global effort by WHO and UNICEF to implement practices that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding in health facilities to foster mother and child bonding. Only facilities that implement all 10 of these steps for successful breastfeeding can receive certification:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half-hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants.
  6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming-in - that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no artificial teats or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

The Kyrgyz Republic eagerly adopted the BFHI over 20 years ago, rebranding it as “Mother and Baby Friendly.” The initiative is led by a national BFHI committee but often relies on donor funding for the roll out and assessment of BFHI certification for facilities.

SPRING/Kyrgyz Republic conducts BFHI trainings for facility-based health providers and administration, reaching 734 health workers across 16 hospitals and 11 family medicine centers (FMC) as of September 2017. FMC are outpatient facilities located next to hospitals that reinforce BFHI principles and improve the quality of antenatal and postnatal services and improve care during home deliveries. SPRING also provides supportive monitoring for BFHI-aspiring facilities through quarterly visits to support progress in the 10 steps necessary for BFHI certification, including assistance with the hospitals’ self-driven improvement plans as well as establishing and facilitating mother support groups. SPRING also provides training on mothers’ support group facilitation to strengthen this broadly neglected step.

For hospitals that have met the criteria for certification, SPRING funded the certification review—including transporting the certifier from Bishkek to the hospital. SPRING also supported the hospital staff implementing a continuous monitoring plan to ensure the BFHI standards are maintained over the long term, as well as making funds available for annual certification. To date, 11 facilities received BFHI certification after an independent assessment by the national BFHI review committee, including 6 hospitals and 5 FMCs.