Baby Friendly Is Best – Top Award for Forth Valley’s Health Visiting Service

The number of women in Forth Valley who are breastfeeding at six weeks after giving birth has increased by more than 5% and helped earn NHS Forth Valley’s community health visiting service a prestigious Baby Friendly Award from Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund). The award, which represents international recognition, was presented at the Breastfeeding Support Group at Clackmannanshire Community Healthcare Centre where NHS Forth Valley General Manager Kathy O’Neill is pictured receiving the certificate, from Anne Tainsh, Professional Lead for Scotland for the UNICEF Baby Friendly initiative.

Kathy O’Neill said:  “I am delighted to receive this prestigious award on behalf of NHS Forth Valley’s community health visiting service. The team offer practical and emotional support to enable local women across Forth Valley to help them feel more confident and comfortable to breastfeed. This support and encouragement is having a real impact on local women and is helping to improve our local breastfeeding rates.

Morag Mackellar, NHS Forth Valley’s Maternal and Infant Nutrition Public Health Lead, explained: “We decided to join forces with Unicef’s UK Baby Friendly Initiative to increase breastfeeding rates and to improve care for all mothers in NHS Forth Valley. Regardless of how a mother chooses to feed, she can be sure that she will be supported to form a strong loving relationship with her newborn baby.

Lesley Hetherington and Nikki Ould, NHS Forth Valley’s Infant feeding coordinators, added: “Breastfeeding protects babies against a wide range of serious illnesses including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy as well as asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in later life. We also know that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of some cancers – although mums might be more interested in hearing that it is easier, cheaper and simply less hassle than bottle feeding.”

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 the care provided for all mothers and babies. In the UK, the initiative works with UK public services to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and to strengthen mother-baby and family relationships. Support for these relationships is important for all babies, not only those who are breastfed. The Award is given to health facilities/hospitals/universities after an assessment by a Unicef team has shown that recognised best practice standards are in place.

“We are delighted that NHS Forth Valley’s Community Health Visiting Service has achieved full Baby Friendly status.” said Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative Programme Director, Sue Ashmore. “Surveys show us that most mothers want to breastfeed but don’t always get the support they need. Mothers in NHS Forth Valley can be confident that their midwives and health visitors will provide high standards of care.”