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24 February 2014, 15:51 | Updated: 24 February 2014, 15:53
The United Nation's Children's Fund has given Ashcombe Birth Centre, the midwifery unit at Weston General Hospital, their prestigious Baby Friendly Award.
Ashcombe is now globally recognised as a centre of excellence in encouraging breast-feeding, supporting safe bottle feeding and strengthening mother-baby and family relationships.
The global Baby Friendly Initiative was set up by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation. It's given to hospitals after a rigorous three stage assessment by a UNICEF team to prove the best standards and practices are in place.
"We decided to join the global Baby Friendly movement to increase breastfeeding rates and to improve care for all mothers in Weston General'' said Lucy Webb, Infant Feeding Co-ordinator, Ashcombe Birth Centre, Weston Area Health NHS Trust. ''The Award process was a lot of work but absolutely worth it.''
As part of the accreditation Ashcombe underwent a tough assessment such as demonstrating excellent working practices and submitting a variety of written evidence. New mums and mums-to-be were also interviewed by UNICEF during the process which, from start to finish, lasted over three years.
''Whether a mother chooses to feed by breast or bottle, the UNICEF Award means she can rest assure that all the team on Ashcombe will give her all the support she needs to form a strong loving relationship with her new baby,'' said Lucy.
''We'll make sure she has maximum skin to skin contact and understands how her baby communicates with her and needs her to respond.''
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'' added Lucy. ''Although mums may appreciate it because it's easier, cheaper and simply less hassle than bottle feeding.''
Rates of breast feeding in the UK are on the rise, but are still among the lowest in Europe. In the UK, the Baby Friendly 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.
"We are delighted that Ashcombe Birth Centre 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 at Ashcombe can be confident that their midwives provide high standards of care.''