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Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust, whose health visitors and nursery nurses offer care and support to all children aged up to five, has recently been awarded the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative Accreditation Stage 2.

The Baby Friendly Initiative is a worldwide programme to promote and support breastfeeding and to strengthen mother-baby and family relationships.

The award follows nearly two years of work and training for scores of staff by Pauline Holden and Sarah Biddlecombe, the Trust’s infant feeding leads, followed by assessments and interviews conducted by UNICEF.

Michael Richardson, deputy general manager for children and young people services, said: “Implementing Baby Friendly standards is a proven way of increasing breastfeeding rates and means health professionals can give mothers the support, information and encouragement they need.

“This accreditation is a wonderful achievement and a great credit to all colleagues involved to ensure the Trust now meets this high standard of care for new mums.”

Regular breastfeeding has well-documented health benefits for infants. Babies that are not breastfed have up to an 80 per cent increase in the risk of hospital admission with gastroenteritis and a 50 per cent increase in the rates of chest and ear infections. Breastfeeding also reduces the risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis in the mother.

The Trust employs over 100 health visitors and 32 nursery nurses covering the whole of Gloucestershire. It also runs Well Baby clinics each month in various locations including children’s centres and health clinics across the county. Health visitors typically offer a visit to a family between 10 and 14 days after their baby is born and then provide ongoing advice and care as needed until children reach school age.

Achieving the required UNICEF standard also involved training staff so that breastfeeding is encouraged and supported at all of the Trust’s sites, including its seven community hospitals.

Pauline said: “Sarah and I have been involved in training all the health visitors, nursery nurses and other colleagues.  It is fantastic to receive this award, which recognises our commitment as a Trust to support mums to breastfeed.”

UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Initiative has three stages of accreditation which build from establishing breastfeeding policies, through staff training to an assessment of parent’s experience with services.

Gloucestershire Care Services achieved the first stage of accreditation in 2011 and is planning to reach the third and final stage in 2015.