Corinna Weatherill (Infant Feeding Coordinator, KCHFT) training breastfeeding volunteer Kathryn Maddox at Woodgrove children’s centre, Sittingbourne. This picture was taken in 2019 pre-Covid.
Health visitors and staff from children’s centres across Kent are celebrating following their full accreditation as baby friendly services.
The United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) award is for the breastfeeding support and advice provided by the health visiting service, which is commissioned by Kent County Council (KCC) and run by Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) – alongside Kent’s children’s centres.
“The services joined forces in 2018 to increase breastfeeding rates and to improve care for all women and babies in Kent. It is a huge achievement and a real team effort by members of both children’s centres and health visiting service across Kent, which work on a daily basis with breastfeeding women. The award recognises the high quality of the services we provide,” said Janet Farrington, KCHFT’s Infant Feeding Programme Manager..
“We have long believed in the amazing benefits of supporting women to build a relationship with their baby. The Baby Friendly Initiative is an international programme that has had a positive effect on breastfeeding rates in the UK, championing the best possible health for babies and recognising the link between infant feeding and social and emotional wellbeing.
“We know babies cannot be spoiled by too much love and attention, but rather when their needs for comfort and love are met, they are calmer and grow to be more confident. Parents can be sure however they choose to feed their baby, they will be supported to form a strong loving relationship with their newborn.”Janet Farrington
UNICEF representatives spent several days auditing the service on staff knowledge and skills, in addition to interviewing local families in the area about the care they received.
One hundred per cent of clients were happy with the care they received, saying staff were kind and considerate at all times. UNICEF reported children’s centre staff as ‘friendly, welcoming and informative’.
One mother, who has received support from the team, is Elizabeth Kendrick and her four-week-old daughter Alana. She said: “It is absolutely priceless talking to someone face-to face who is knowledgeable. It’s so much better than any Google search.”
Stuart Collins, KCC’s Director of Integrated Children’s Services, said: “We are all delighted with the feedback received and the award which highlights how well this partnership is working across Kent’s health visiting services and children’s centres. We look forward to continuing to support breastfeeding mothers and their families in the best way possible.”
Baby Friendly Initiative Programme Director Sue Ashmore said: ” Surveys show us that most mothers want to breastfeed but don’t always get the support they need. Mothers in Kent can be confident that their health visitors and children’s centre staff will provide high standards of care.”
Families can find more information about breastfeeding and details of local support at www.wearebesideyou.co.uk, details of their local health visiting team at www.kentcht.nhs.uk/service/kent-baby/ and find details of their nearest children centres at www.kent.gov.uk/education-and-children/childcare-and-pre-school/childrens-centres.