Breastfeeding & Chestfeeding Friendly Washington Birth Centers

The Lactation and Infant Feeding Friendly Environments (LIFE) program is currently on pause.

Coming Soon! The Breastfeeding Friendly Washington Clinic Program for community health clinics is under development to align with the new Lactation and Infant Feeding-Friendly Environments (LIFE) program. If you would like to provide input on the program’s development, contact us at

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Free-standing birth centers play an important role in supporting breastfeeding. We want to acknowledge the effort, time and cost it takes to have breastfeeding friendly maternity practices and celebrate those facilities that have been making these efforts to do so!

All of this hard work makes a difference in the health of Washington's babies.

Birth centers can use this program as a starting point in working towards becoming Baby-Friendly USA®, although the steps and required documentation differ for these two programs. The Baby-Friendly USA® program is an international designation program developed by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children Fund and implemented by Baby-Friendly USA®.

What Is a Birth Center?

A free-standing birth center is an independent, licensed health care facility providing prenatal, birth and postpartum care to low risk deliveries. Birth centers are staffed by midwives and provide family-centered care in a friendly, warm, home-like environment. Birth centers don't provide spinal anesthesia or perform surgery but are prepared to work with local hospital and emergency staff in the event of a serious concern, or unplanned event.

Birth center midwives are licensed either as:

  • Nurses (Certified Nurse Midwives, or CNMs) who have undergone extensive Nurse Midwife Training.
  • Licensed Midwives (LMs). LMs attend a three or more year academic program accredited by Midwifery Education and Accreditation Council (MEAC) and must pass an exam written by North American Registry of Midwives (NARM).

LMs and CNMs have to do continuing education to maintain their licensing and proficiency.

Is a midwife right for you? Learn more about midwifery care.

Birth Centers Can Apply to Be Recognized as Breastfeeding Friendly!

There are three tiers of recognition (Bronze, Silver, and Gold) depending on where your facility is in the process of implementing Breastfeeding Friendly Washington's Ten Steps for Birth Centers.

To apply for recognition, complete the Breastfeeding Friendly Washington–Birth Centers application (Word) and email it to us at Birth centers that are already Baby-Friendly® just need to scan and email their award letter and they will automatically qualify for gold level.

Successful applicants will receive:

  • A certificate.
  • Window clings with their designation level.
  • A graphic file with their designation level and a sample press release.
  • Promotion by the Department of Health through our website and on social media at #HealthiestNextGen. As birth centers are certified Breastfeeding Friendly, they will be listed on our Find a Breastfeeding Friendly Facility page. Birth centers recognized at the gold level will also receive a unique plaque.

Breastfeeding Friendly Washington Ten Steps for Birth Centers

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
  2. Train all healthcare staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Place infants skin-to-skin with their mothers for 60 minutes immediately after birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants.
  6. Give infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming-in to allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand. Teach mothers cue-based feeding regardless of feeding method.
  9. Give no artificial nipples or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Establish a system for referring mothers to out-patient and community support