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Leeds plan backs breastfeeding as Health Visiting service awarded Gold status by Unicef


Plans for improving rates of breastfeeding in Leeds are set to be discussed at Leeds City Council executive board on 17th October.

The new Leeds Breastfeeding Plan builds on previous work which has seen rates improve steadily. Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust’s Health Visiting service, working in partnership with Leeds City Council and Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, has been awarded gold status by Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative for the excellent care it provides to pregnant women and families across Leeds.

With breastfeeding recommended by the World Health Organisation, NHS and Public Health England as providing a foundation for a healthy start to life and preventing disease for both babies and their mothers, a new report on the plan contains recommendations that could contribute to improve rates of breastfeeding.

Sharon Yellin, Deputy Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council said:

“We are committed to ensuring the best possible start for every child in Leeds, and breastfeeding is a key factor in this. Breastfeeding rates in the UK are low and many women stop breastfeeding before they want to.

We know that with the right support and better information more mothers will start breastfeeding and continue for longer which will impact on both mother’s and baby’s health and wellbeing. It is essential we acknowledge this is a public health imperative for which everyone, including communities, families and organisations share responsibility.”

“Breastfeeding protects both mothers and babies from a wide range of common illnesses, many involving life-long healthcare costs. Even moderate increases in breastfeeding would translate into cost savings for the NHS of many millions, and tens of thousands of fewer hospital admissions and GP visits.”

Councillor Rebecca Charlwood, Chair of Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board and Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative Guardian for the city said:

“This plan is an excellent way to build on the foundations we have set in recent years which are bringing positive results. The award of gold status to LCH NHS Trust is a great example of the hard work people are doing to encourage the benefits of breastfeeding and something for the city to be really proud of. The hard work of teams from across the city’s public health and NHS networks has really paid off. It is also a tribute to the mothers who have recognised the benefits and continued to breastfeed and share the benefits of this with their child.

“We want children to have the best start possible, a priority of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy. The Unicef recognition is evidence mothers and their babies will see the benefits of breastfeeding for years to come and we also want to build on the increasing acceptance of breastfeeding, so that mothers can feel comfortable feeding their baby wherever they are.”

The Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) is a mark of quality designed to help parents build close and loving relationships and feed their baby in ways which will support optimum health and development. It is based on a set of evidence-based standards for maternity, health visiting, neonatal and children’s centre’s services. The Unicef gold award is being formally recognised on October 25th with a celebration event at Leeds Civic Hall, bringing together those involved in the achievement.

Alison Ellis is the clinical lead for the service, providing support to families before birth and up to a child’s fifth birthday. She said:

“Gold accreditation reflects the high standards in Leeds and the leadership, culture and systems to maintain them over the long term are in place. This amazing achievement confirms excellent standards have been embedded in our practice of supporting the women of Leeds in making fully informed evidence-based feeding choices and knowing where they can find support when they have feeding issues.”

“The award not only demonstrates the continued hard work, pride and commitment to excellent practice, it demonstrates our practice is well-supported by strong leadership and senior figures appointed as Baby Friendly Guardians, who are wider advocates supporting families in Leeds.”

Sally Goodwin-Mills, Advanced Health Improvement Specialist, Infant Feeding Leeds City Council Public Health said:

“Implementing BFI standards in Leeds has meant a huge change in practice over the years of this project which has only been achieved with the effort of so many working together in partnership.”

“The dedication of practitioners has influenced an increase in the number of women choosing to continue to breastfeed, which in turn will contribute to helping improve health outcomes for the population of Leeds.

“We are thrilled and proud to be celebrating this success with staff and families, it makes all the hard work worthwhile when such a difference is made.”