e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Implementation of the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative

To reduce infant mortality and ill health, WHO recommends that mothers provide breast milk to their infants within one hour of birth – referred to as “early initiation of breastfeeding”. This ensures that the infant receives the colostrum (“first milk”), which is rich in protective and regulating factors. Infants should also be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health with continued breastfeeding to 2 years of age and beyond.

The Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative is a global effort to implement practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding. It aims to ensure that all maternity facilities become centres of breastfeeding support.

Since its launch by WHO and UNICEF in 1991, more than 150 countries have implemented the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative. The Initiative has had a measurable and proven impact, increasing both early initiation of breastfeeding and the likelihood of infants being exclusively breastfed from birth until six months of age.

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines

Status: not currently available

Other guidance documents


Related Cochrane reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

25 March 2014 13:36 CET

Category 2 intervention

There is extensive research but no recent guidelines yet available that have been approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee

Biological, behavioural and contextual rationale