THE BARLAVENTO Hospital in Portimão is preparing an application to become a ‘Baby-friendly Hospital’, a certification granted by a national commission in co-ordination with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
A maternity facility can be designated ‘baby-friendly’ when it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.
The hospital already encourages mothers to start breastfeeding within half-an-hour of birth, and offers aid and advice for mothers about breastfeeding during the period following delivery. Nearly all of the nurses at the hospital have formal training in the skills necessary to implement the policy. The hospital must also have a written breastfeeding policy, which is routinely communicated to all staff. “We hope to have suitable conditions for our application to be accepted towards the end of the year,” stated Alda Santos, chief nurse of the Obstetrics Service at the Barlavento Hospital.
Hospitals and maternity units set a powerful example for new mothers. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), launched in 1991, is an effort by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation to ensure that all maternity wards, whether free standing or in a hospital, become centres of breastfeeding support.
There is only one ‘Baby-friendly Hospital’ in Portugal, and that is the Garcia de Orta in Almada, Lisbon.