Muscat – The Ministry of Health (MoH) on Wednesday released a national guide for baby-friendly hospitals as part of its efforts to encourage breastfeeding in health institutes.
Represented by the Nutrition Department, the ministry launched the National Guide for Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) under the patronage of H E Dr Said bin Harib al Lamki, Undersecretary for Health Affairs at MoH.
The ceremony was attended by directors general in the governorates, hospital directors, health workers, as well as maternal and infant healthcare providers.
A training workshop was also held to introduce the provisions of the guide, and the challenges faced by the institutions in implementing this initiative.
The resource persons, who addressed the workshop, informed the participants about the BFHI’s international evaluation requirements. There were 150 health workers who participated in the training workshop.
BFHI was launched by WHO and Unicef in 1991 to encourage health facilities worldwide to better support breastfeeding.
It proposed ‘Ten Steps’ as a package of policies and procedures that facilities providing maternity and newborn services should implement to support breastfeeding.
The BFHI guide outlines key responsibilities to scale up implementation of those ‘Ten Steps’ through critical management procedures complying fully with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.
It requires all health institutes to have a written infant feeding policy that is routinely communicated to staff and parents, besides ensuring their staff having sufficient knowledge, competence and skills to support breastfeeding.
“Oman was one of the countries that initiated the implementation of BFHI in 1992,” Dr Salima al Mamari, Director of Nutrition Department at the Directorate General of Primary Health Care, MoH, informed.
She added that a national team, supported by Unicef, was formed in 2022 to evaluate this initiative across all the health institutions in the country. In addition, 59 nurses from various governorates, have been trained on the international breastfeeding programme, while breastfeeding clinics were opened in most of the hospitals.
The implementation of the BFHI guide demands strategies to scale up to universal coverage and ensure sustainability over time. It focuses on integrating the programme fully in the healthcare system, to ensure that all facilities in a country implement the ‘Ten Steps’ outlined in the guide.