Health visitors in Luton have won international recognition for their work with children by winning the prestigious Baby Friendly Award.
The award from the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (Unicef) was presented to the health visiting team at Luton Children’s and Adults Community Health Services in recognition of its work promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding co-ordinator, Linda Masterson, received the award at the team’s headquarters at Futures House, Marsh Farm – part of Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, on Wednesday, November 11.
The award presentation came as Public Health England’s parenting advice service, Start4Life launched a new campaign to raise awareness of the fact that many new mothers feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public despite broad public support.
A recent Start4life poll shows showed that more than a third of breastfeeding mothers shy away from doing so in public, those that do, put in measures so that they are not noticed breastfeeding. The aim of the campaign is to show that the majority of the general public endorse a woman’s right to feed in public and are supportive of this.
Linda said: “We decided to join forces with Unicef UK’s Baby Friendly initiative to increase breastfeeding rates and to improve care for all mothers within the health visiting service.
“We are absolutely delighted to have won this award; it is recognition of the high standard of support the team is giving mothers and their babies and families generally across Luton.
“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.
“But however a mother chooses to feed her baby, she can be sure that she will be supported to form a strong, loving relationship with her new-born through having maximum skin to skin contact and understanding how her baby communicates with her and needs her to respond.”
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 charity works with public services to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and to strengthen mother-baby and family relationships. The award is given to healthy facilities, hospitals and universities after an assessment by a Unicef team has shown that recognised best practice standards are in place.
Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative programme director, Sue Ashmore, said: “We are delighted that Luton Children and Adults Community Health Services Health Visiting Team has achieved full Baby Friendly status.
“Surveys show that most mothers want to breastfeed but don’t always get the support they need. Mothers in Luton can be confident that their health visitors will provide high standards of care.”
Start4Life released its poll findings to raise awareness of the issue of breastfeeding in public alongside the launch of new animated short films sharing real life experiences of mothers breastfeeding in public, to help break down the barriers and stigma that prevent many mothers from doing so.