Devon Integrated Children's Services’ Health Visiting Team, which is led by Virgin Care, has been accredited with ‘Baby Friendly’ status having passed the stage three assessment of the Baby Friendly Initiative – a worldwide programme of UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund) and the World Health Organisation.
The initiative recognises that most of the barriers that prevent women from breastfeeding can be removed by access to well-trained health professionals, good quality support in the community and a widespread understanding of the profound health benefits of breast milk.
Accreditation is internationally recognised and externally verified following assessment of staff skills and knowledge and the direct feedback from users of the service.
The Health Visiting breastfeeding support teams in Devon, led by Infant Feeding Co-ordinator Mandy Grant, have been working closely with Children’s Centres and breastfeeding peer supporters (volunteer mums) to improve the care and support that pregnant women, new mothers and their families receive in the community, to help them feed, care for and build strong relationships with their babies.
This integrated approach is now being shared as an example of best practice with teams involved working in an effective and sustainable way.
Virgin Care, the provider of Devon’s public health nursing service, is supporting a number of its health visitors to undertake additional specialist training which will enable more complex breastfeeding advice to be available to new mums across Devon.
One mum who used the service said: “Without the support I received there is no way I would have breastfed for as long as I have and now things are working a lot better for us."
Jayne Carroll, Head of Integrated Children’s Services, said: "Being awarded full accreditation is a fantastic achievement. It will help us to increase breastfeeding rates and improve care for mothers who use our services. I’m delighted that our integrated working approach has been recognised by UNICEF as best practice.”
Mandy Grant, Virgin Care Infant Feeding Coordinator said: “The team has been a joy to work with and seeing support for mothers improving in our audits has been a great satisfaction for all concerned.”
Val Smith, Head of Early Years and Children’s Centres in Devon said: “This is a wonderful example of collaborative working.”