Baby Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI)

Families and communities are indispensable resources for mothers in the education of infant and young child feeding. Evidence has shown that mother-to-mother support groups, peer counsellors, and community-based workers can be very effective in helping mothers to initiate exclusive breastfeeding and sustain breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond.

In New Zealand around 80 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed on discharge from baby-friendly hospitals. However this percentage drops significantly to 49 percent six weeks after birth, and then a low of 16.7 percent at six months. Globally, less than 40 percent of infants aged under six months are exclusively breastfed.

The Baby Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI) plays an important role in creating supportive breastfeeding services in the community, just as BFHI has in maternity services.

The BFCI aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for healthy mothers and babies through the implementation of best practice standards of care which are based on current scientific evidence, and set guidelines. The BFCI programme includes a broader focus on:

  • providing community support for the initiation of breastfeeding to improve exclusive breastfeeding rates, and
  • supporting mothers to increase the duration of breastfeeding alongside the appropriate introduction of complementary foods.

The vision of the BFCI Aotearoa New Zealand is to see the restoration of breastfeeding as the cultural norm. All community services participating in the BFCI are measured, monitored and evaluated by the New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance (NZBA) to provide a high level of care for antenatal, birthing, postnatal or mothers with infants and/or young children in the community.

Staff in Baby Friendly accredited services must adopt best practice standards for infant and young child feeding that aim to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Services must provide factual information and support for pregnant women and mothers. At the same time, they must ensure mothers who decide not to breastfeed are supported in their decision, and provided with unbiased information and advice.

The NZBA advocates for the implementation of the Innocenti Declaration 2005 On Infant and Young Child Feeding in New Zealand.

"The NZBA is hugely encouraged by the positive impact of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, and we now want to follow up with the Baby Friendly Community Initiative Aotearoa New Zealand.

This is your invitation to join us in our bid to protect, promote and support breastfeeding within community organisations throughout New Zealand. As stated in the Ministry of Health's National Strategic Plan of Action for Breastfeeding, we need to ensure that: "Women and their whanau/family have the information they need to make confident and informed decisions about breastfeeding, and live and work in an environment that enables and supports their decisions".

We want a consistent standard of breastfeeding knowledge and skills to be available for women and their families in the wider community, so that they will be encouraged to initiate and continue breastfeeding, and view it as the best food source for their infants."

- Julie Stufkens, Executive Officer, New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance