UWE commits to gold standard for breast-feeding training

Issue date: 26 July 2011


More than eight out of ten newborn babies in the UK are now breastfed says a new NHS report and the University of the West of England (UWE) is now supporting new mothers by ensuring its student midwives and health visitors have the highest standard of training available.

UWE has been recognised for its commitment to work towards international recognition from the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative for the high levels of training in breastfeeding provided to students on its health visiting and midwifery courses.

UWE is one of only three UK universities who have gained a certificate of commitment for both health visiting and midwifery courses.

Louise Condon, Nursing lecturer at UWE says, “It is good news to hear that breastfeeding is on the increase, but for women who want to breastfeed successfully it is vital they get the support they need. That is why it is so important that midwives and health visitors are given the right training and the practical skills needed to support women at this crucial time. Many women know of the advantages of breastfeeding but still need support. We decided to work with the Baby Friendly Initiative to ensure a high standard of training in breastfeeding for all student midwives and health visitors graduating from UWE.

“We know that many women give up breastfeeding before they want to because of difficulties which could have been prevented if skilled help had been on hand. By ensuring that our midwifery and health visiting students are fully trained in how to help a mother breastfeed her child, more women will be able to breastfeed their babies for longer.”

Geraldine Lucas (Midwifery Lecturer), explained, “Breastfeeding is important because it protects babies against a wide range of serious illnesses including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy as well as allergies and diabetes in childhood. We also know that breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of some cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer. For a woman's baby, there is also a reduced risk of childhood leukaemia.”

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.

The Baby Friendly University Award was launched in the UK in 2008 – the first such award anywhere in the world –in order to ensure high levels of training in breastfeeding are incorporated in midwifery and health visitor training courses. The Certificate of Commitment recognises that a university is dedicated to implementing recognised best practice standards in breastfeeding training, and is part way along the road to full Baby Friendly Accreditation. Once the training is underway at UWE, the teaching methods will be scrutinised and students will be questioned to ensure their training meets the new guidelines.

"We are delighted that the University of the West of England has received this award,” 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. Working towards full Baby Friendly Accreditation means that UWE is addressing this problem and aiming to ensure more mothers can successfully breastfeed their babies in future.”

The Certificate of commitment to the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative will be presented to staff and students at the Glenside Campus of UWE by April Whincop, Barnardos Breastfeeding Peer Support Co-ordinator, on 29 July at 10:30.

Bristol has already been awarded the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Community in 2010 and is the first city to have both midwifery and health visiting services accredited for best practice in the support of breastfeeding.

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