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What Does It Mean to be Mother-Baby Friendly, Really?

Posted on December 12th, 2013 by | 7 views

"Despite major advances in medical care, critical threats to maternal, infant, and child health exist in the United States. Among the Nation’s most pressing challenges are reducing the rate of preterm births, which has risen by more than 20% from 1990 to 2006,1 and reducing the infant death rate, which in 2011 remained higher than the infant death rate in 46 other countries.2" (

In the last seven years I have had the utmost pleasure to meet, share and learn from some of the greatest leaders in the birth psychology and health movement. Ina May Gaskin, Michel Odent, Robbie Davis-Floyd, Suzanne Arms, William Emerson, Marti Glenn, Marsden Wagner...the list goes on. In speaking with each of them, one truth rang through their work that touched a cord in my heart: conception, pregnancy and birth are a time of profound transformation and formulation of human health and well-being. And thus it is a time to be revered, and those involved deserve a respect unlike anything our culture has offered for generations. Out of these deep wells of knowing backed by hard science and evidence-based practices has sprung a strong call for action around the world.  

Organizations like the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services, the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization, The World Health Organization, UNICEF and a many others have worked tirelessly over the years to bring qualitative and quantitative standards to hospitals and birth centers around the world to ensure that mothers and babies are respected and supported during the profound journey of birth. The US Government via The Healthy People 2020 Initiative also recognizes that birth impacts health and well-being and have deemed Maternal, Infant and Child Health to be a critical part of their science-based objectives for improving overall health for Americans by 2020. 

Below are the steps that these organizations stand behind as outlined on the International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization Website: 

10 Steps to Optimal MotherBaby* Maternity Services

An optimal MotherBaby maternity service has written policies, implemented in education and practice, requiring that its health care providers: 

Step 1 - Treat every woman with respect and dignity. 

Step 2 - Possess and routinely apply midwifery knowledge and skills that optimize the normal physiology of birth and breastfeeding. 

Step 3 - Inform the mother of the benefits of continuous support during labour and birth, and affirm her right to receive such support from companions of her choice. 

Step 4 - Provide drug-free comfort and pain relief methods during labour, explaining their benefits for facilitating normal birth. 

Step 5 - Provide evidence-based practices proven to be beneficial. 

Step 6 - Avoid potentially harmful procedures and practices. 

Step 7 - Implement measures that enhance wellness and prevent illness and emergencies. 

Step 8 - Provide access to evidence-based skilled emergency treatment. 

Step 9 - Provide a continuum of collaborative care with all relevant health care providers, institutions, and organizations. 

Step 10 - Strive to achieve the BFHI 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. 

An optimal MotherBaby maternity service has written policies, implemented in education and practice, requiring that its health care providers: 

For a more detailed look at the 10 Steps, please click here.

*The mother and baby constitute an integral unit during pregnancy, birth, and infancy, herein referred to as the MotherBaby. 

It is important as a parent to be informed and choose a location for birth that will optimize you and your babies well-being. Ensuring the place and practitioners you choose to support you DEMONSTRATE their stand for these principles is key. 

As a mother, a citizen and a birth champion, I stand behind and celebrate these principles and will continue to make effort to educate families around the world to support empowerment in their own journey into and through parenthood. 




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