Hardworking staff in the North East’s busiest maternity unit have won international recognition for their care for newborns and their mums.
Representatives from UNICEF (United Nation’s Children’s Fund) have unveiled a celebratory plaque at the maternity unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI).
The unit which delivers over 7,000 babies every year – is one of only a handful in the country to receive the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative Accreditation, acknowledging the high standards of care that its staff provide to help women bond with their newborns.
Nicola Kay, 36, from Kingston park, struggled with breastfeeding her first son Patrick when he was born in 2012, and worried she would have the same difficulties with the birth of her second son, Ronan, in April last year.
But nurses sat down with her to produce a care plan looking at where things had gone wrong the first time around, and reassured her when Ronan became jaundiced and had to be tubefed in the special care unit.
Nicola said: “The staff were completely exceptional from start to finish. I could not have asked for better care.
“When I had my first little boy I did not anticipate how hard breastfeeding would be, and set myself ridiculous expectations.
“It sounds silly, but I was more scared of breastfeeding than labour. The guilt you feel as a mum when breastfeeding hasn’t gone as well as it could have done is ridiculous.
“We put a plan in place to see what had gone wrong the first time and to stop it happening again.
“It didn’t matter to them that I’d been in twice – they just treated me like a firsttime mum who was terrified.
Mum-of-two, Vicky Gray, from Heaton, was unable to get her first child, Charlotte, to latch, but said that her experience when Alexandra was born in November last year was completely different.
The 36-year-old said: “I felt very lonely the first time around. This time I had much more practical advice and everyone was really helpful.”
Director of the Baby Friendly Initiative Programme, Sue Ashmore, said: “We are delighted.”
“Surveys show that most mothers want to breastfeed but don’t always get the support they need.
“Mothers at the RVI can be confident that their midwives will provide high standards of care.”
The RVI’s maternity staff help mums by advocating skin contact, helping with feeding and understanding how to communicate with and respond to their babies.
The NHS trust has also refurbished its infant feeding rooms and improved signs around the hospital so that new mums know breastfeeding is welcome.
Lynne McDonald, Infant Feeding Coordinator at the Maternity Unit, who has helped parents to feed their newborns for 15 years, said: “Breastfeeding helps to reduce the risk of babies becoming ill with gastroenteritis and respiratory infections, and lowers the risk of asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes developing later.
“It also helps protect the mother’s health, lowering the risk of certain types of cancer, and helping to develop strong bones in later life. So there are lots of physical and emotional benefits for both mother and baby.”
Newcastle City Council supported the RVI through the four and a half year accreditation process, and in October 2014, after a rigorous threeday assessment, the NHS trust was provisionally recognised.
But work to improve services for newborns and their mums across the board is not due to stop here.
Lynne said: “This is the basic standard, and we will need to be reaccredited in two years. It is important that we keep working towards things. It’s a continual process.”
“We have done a lot so that mums don’t think there is a dropoff after the birth. We don’t want mums to feel they get everything in maternity and then support just ends.”
Elaine Blair, Head of Midwifery at the RVI added: “Our staff will continue to work hard in supporting women so that, however a mother chooses to feed her baby, she can be sure she will be supported to form a strong, loving relationship with her baby.”