Baby-friendly Weston receives UNICEF award

Weston-super-Mare is officially a ‘Baby-friendly’ town, after international recognition from Unicef (United Nation’s Children’s Fund).

The new status for Weston-super-Mare is in recognition that maternity units at Weston General Hospital and midwives working in the community have both reached the high standards required by Unicef to promote breastfeeding. 

In addition, North Somerset Community Partnership Health Visiting Service, commissioned by the Council, has received full accreditation. 

Just over half (54%) of maternity units in England have been granted a ‘baby friendly’ accolade, putting Weston’s maternity services amongst the top tier in the country. 

Scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding offers many health benefits and can protect babies from a range of serious illnesses including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy as well as asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in later life.

The prestigious Baby Friendly Award was presented by a representative from Unicef at a ceremony held on the 8th December in the maternity unit at Weston General Hospital.

A tea party, with some of the mothers who had been helped attending, was held at the unveiling ceremony.

Speaking on the award, Belinda Cox, Matron of Ashcombe Birth Centre, said: “We decided to join forces with Unicef UK's Baby Friendly Initiative to increase breastfeeding rates and to improve care for all mothers in Weston.

“Weston should be really proud of being a Baby Friendly town. More children in Weston will now reap the many health and cognitive benefits from being breastfed.

“Receiving this award recognises the positive difference we are making to mothers and babies from Weston, in particular supporting women to get a good start to breastfeeding.”

Sara Zinn, Breastfeeding Lead for North Somerset Community Partnership (NSCP), added:  “It is a great honour for NSCP to receive this prestigious award from Unicef, especially as our local hospital has also earned the same status.

“This is really positive for the health of babies and mothers in Weston-super-Mare, and across all of North Somerset, which is served by our Health Visitors and the community midwives. I would like to thank all our staff for their continued hard work, and the support from our executive team in achieving this recognition from a global organisation.”

Natalie Field, Director of Public Health for North Somerset, said: “Achieving and maintaining the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation in our maternity unit and health visiting service reflects the high standards of infant feeding support locally. It is an outstanding achievement which has required a lot of hard work and commitment at all levels.

“North Somerset Council’s Children’s Centres are also working towards achieving the baby friendly accreditation, which will further ensure that new families have the appropriate information, knowledge and support available to them regarding breastfeeding and feeding their baby as they develop.

“Volunteer breastfeeding peer supporters who are based in children’s centres continue to provide invaluable support to breastfeeding mums across North Somerset.”

Cllr Sarah Codling, from North Somerset Council, said: “My congratulations to all the team at Weston General Hospital's Maternity Services in receiving such recognition.

“The importance of breast feeding and the support and guidance necessary for new mums and their families cannot be underestimated.

“Earlier this year I was privileged to relaunch the Breast Feeding Welcome Scheme and we have seen great success in the town, with a number of venues such as cafes and restaurants committing to welcoming and promoting breast feeding on their premises.

“Thanks are due to all the professionals, volunteers and businesses involved in doing their bit to offer every support and encouragement for breast feeding in Weston-super-Mare.”

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 hospitals and health facilities after an assessment by a Unicef team has shown that recognised best practice standards are in place.

"We are delighted that Weston has achieved full Baby Friendly status," said 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 Weston can be confident that their midwives and health visitors will provide high standards of care.”