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Maternity unit delivers with UNICEF baby friendly initiative

24 October 2019

Health Care

The maternity unit at Southend University Hospital has been re-accredited as baby friendly by UNICEF, following an assessment which showed that best practice standards are in place.

The award is given to health facilities, hospitals and universities after an assessment by a team from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

The Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) is transforming healthcare for babies, their mothers and families in the UK, as part of a wider global partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF.

The BFI's work to support breastfeeding is based on extensive evidence that breastfeeding saves lives and improves health.

Frances Royds, an Infant Feeding Advisor at Southend Hospital, said:"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."

New mums are supported to make informed choices about feeding. Mums who opt for breastfeeding are helped to overcome any challenges and parents who choose formula feeding are supported with information about choosing milks, making up feeds, feeding safely and responsively. 

The maternity unit support all families to develop close and loving relationships with their new-born. Staff talk with expectant mums and new parents about the importance of responsive feeding and parenting which enhances bonding and reduces stress for parents and baby.

Fellow Infant Feeding Advisor, Julie Newby, said:"We want the best for parents and their babies and working within the framework of Baby Friendly Initiative enhances the parents' experience. We are so proud of the staff on the maternity unit who have worked very hard to embed the UNICEF BFI standards in their practice and deliver excellent infant feeding care and advice to families in our area. We want to say a big thank you to all staff and parents who helped us achieve this award."

The assessment will be conducted again in 2021 helping ensure that the maternity unit consistently maintains high standards of care for mothers and their babies.