Understanding the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative: A Multidisciplinary Analysis

International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 12 (2):117-147 (2019)
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In the United States, roughly 1 out of 4 births takes place at a hospital certified as Baby-Friendly. This paper offers a multi-disciplinary perspective on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), including empirical, normative, and historical perspectives. Our analysis is novel in that we trace how medical practices of “quality improvement,” which initially appear to have little to do with breastfeeding, may have shaped the BFHI. Ultimately, we demonstrate that a rich understanding of the BFHI can be obtained by tracing how norms of gender/motherhood interact with, and are supplemented by, other normative, historical, and institutional realities. We conclude with suggestions for practical revisions to the BFHI.

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