Epsom and St Helier hospitals are the first in London to receive the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative Gold Award.
Maternity services at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust are one of a handful (just four in England) to have received the Gold Award. The award is recognition that not only is the service providing the best standards of care for mothers and babies, but that it has the leadership, culture and systems in place to maintain this over the long term.
The Baby Friendly Initiative, set up by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, is a global programme which provides a practical and effective way for health services to improve and maintain the best standards of care for all mothers and babies. In the UK, the initiative works with public services to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, safe bottle feeding and to strengthen mother-baby and family relationships.
Chief Nurse and the Trust’s Baby Friendly Guardian, Arlene Wellman said: “This is a fantastic achievement for our hospitals and I am so proud of our Maternity Service team who have worked so hard to get this. The award reflects our long-standing commitment to supporting mothers to breastfeed and to help all parents build a close and loving relationship with their baby, irrespective of feeding method.
Marion Louki, Director of Midwifery and Gynaecology, said: “Breastfeeding is really important as it can reduce the risk of babies developing a number of illnesses and helps new mums to bond with their child, and here at Epsom and St Helier hospitals, we are committed to ensuring that mums-to-be and new mums get all the support they need to breastfeed. We support all women to make an informed choice about their chosen method of feeding.”
The Baby Friendly programme sets standards for health professionals to follow and has an assessment and accreditation scheme to support the implementation of the standards. In the UK, it is recommended by both the Department of Health and NICE as an effective intervention to improve public health. In recent years, the programme has been expanded to include very early child development.