South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Breastfeeding policies and practices in health care facilities in the Western Cape Province, South Africa

D.B Marais, H.E Koornhof, M.L du Plessis, C.E Naude, K Smit, E Hertzog, R Treurnicht, M Alexander, L Cruywagen, I Kosaber


The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global effort to improve the role of maternity services and to enable mothers to breastfeed their infants, thus ensuring the best start in life for their infants. The foundation for the BFHI is the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding (BF). It has been shown, however, that the selective implementation of only some of the steps may be ineffective and discouraging to successful BF practices. An initial study was therefore conducted to assess the extent of the implementation of the Ten Steps in both public and private maternity facilities. Poor performance for some steps led to a follow-up study to investigate the knowledge and attitudes of health care workers (HCWs) and mothers alike and to evaluate the exclusive BF (EBF) practices of mothers attending private BF clinics. Both studies followed descriptive, cross-sectional designs and were set in the Cape Metropole in the Western Cape. Twenty-six maternity facilities participated in the initial study, for which observation lists were completed and verified by interviewer-administered questionnaires to both HCWs and mothers. Eighteen private BF clinics participated in the follow-up study, which included observations and interviewer-administered questionnaires to 25 HCWs and 64 mothers. During the initial study, lower mean scores were noted for Steps 1, 2, 6 and 10. The overall implementation of the Ten Steps was average. The findings highlighted the importance of the establishment and implementation of BF policies, of appropriate and continuous BF training and better referral systems to ensure initiation and establishment of early BF, EBF practices and support on an ongoing basis to ensure the best start in life for infants.

Keywords: Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative; Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding; exclusive breastfeeding; maternity facilities
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