Baby‐Friendly Community Initiative—From national guidelines to implementation: A multisectoral platform for improving infant and young child feeding practices and integrated health services

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The Baby‐Friendly Community Initiative (BFCI) is an extension of the 10th step of the Ten Steps of Successful Breastfeeding and the Baby‐Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and provides continued breastfeeding support to communities upon facility discharge after birth. BFCI creates a comprehensive support system at the community level through the establishment of mother‐to‐mother and community support groups to improve breastfeeding. The Government of Kenya has prioritized community‐based programming in the country, including the development of the first national BFCI guidelines, which inform national and subnational level implementation. This paper describes the process of BFCI implementation within the Kenyan health system, as well as successes, challenges, and opportunities for integration of BFCI into health and other sectors. In Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) and UNICEF areas, 685 community leaders were oriented to BFCI, 475 health providers trained, 249 support groups established, and 3,065 children 0–12 months of age reached (MCSP only). Though difficult to attribute to our programme, improvements in infant and young child feeding practices were observed from routine health data following the programme, with dramatic declines in prelacteal feeding (19% to 11%) in Kisumu County and (37.6% to 5.1%) in Migori County from 2016 to 2017. Improvements in initiation and exclusive breastfeeding in Migori were also noted—from 85.9% to 89.3% and 75.2% to 92.3%, respectively. Large gains in consumption of iron‐rich complementary foods were also seen (69.6% to 90.0% in Migori, 78% to 90.9% in Kisumu) as well as introduction of complementary foods (42.0–83.3% in Migori). Coverage for BFCI activities varied across counties, from 20% to 60% throughout programme implementation and were largely sustained 3 months postimplementation in Migori, whereas coverage declined in Kisumu. BFCI is a promising platform to integrate into other sectors, such as early child development, agriculture, and water, sanitation, and hygiene.

Key messages

  • Routine contacts with mothers through home visits, mother and community member engagement via support groups, and linkages between community and health facility services are critical components of BFCI.
  • BFCI provides a platform to not only improve breastfeeding but also to accelerate improvements in maternal nutrition and complementary feeding practices
  • BFCI provides a platform to integrate nutrition‐sensitive interventions, such as early childhood development, agriculture initiatives, and water, sanitation, and hygiene.

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