Health visiting teams in East Sussex, their clinics and Children’s Centres have taken the first step towards gaining international recognition from the UNICEF (United Nation’s Children’s Fund) Baby Friendly Initiative.
The scheme works with health professionals and other community workers to ensure a high standard of care for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers and babies.
It provides support so women are able to start and continue breastfeeding for as long as they wish and also focuses on relationship building between the mother and baby.
The facilities, which are all run by either East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust or East Sussex County Council, have been awarded a Certificate of Commitment, the first stage in a four-step process leading to full Baby Friendly accreditation.
The Certificate of Commitment recognises that the organisations have finalised their infant feeding policy and action plan, making the commitment to work towards full Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation.
The organisations will be applying for Stage One of the accreditation in the spring.
Kaia Relfe, community Baby Friendly Initiative lead for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Achievement of Baby Friendly Initiative standards has been shown to support parents in making informed choices and in succeeding where breastfeeding is their feeding method of choice and so supports optimum health outcomes for both mothers and their babies.
“The new standards also focus on relationship building and improving attachment between mother and baby regardless of the method of feeding.
“Acquiring Baby Friendly Accreditation over the next two years will be a huge achievement for us as a community and will take support and commitment from all our staff and senior management to help us to get there.
“The evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby is well-established. Breastfeeding has some of the most wide-reaching and long lasting effects on a baby’s health and development, with babies who breastfeed at a lower risk of gastroenteritis, respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes and allergies including asthma. Mothers who breastfeed increase their protection against breast and ovarian cancer, and hip fractures in later life with recent evidence also demonstrating an association between prolonged breastfeeding and postmenopausal risk factors for cardiovascular (CV) disease.”
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust runs both the Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH.