NHS Borders has signed up to the global Baby Friendly Initiative to demonstrate its commitment to improving the care provided to women and babies living in the region.
The UNICEF programme, chiefed with raising standards of maternity care and encouraging breastfeeding, will be driven forward in the Borders by Chief Executive, Calum Campbell, with support from the new Baby Friendly Initiative Lead Rachael Marples.
Rachael said: “Research has shown that breastfed babies are less likely to get a variety of illnesses and infections including diabetes, childhood leukaemia and gastro-intestinal infection.
“Breastfed babies are less likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome and may have added protection against many other diseases.
“However breastfeeding is not only good for babies as women who breastfeed are at lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures.”
The Baby Friendly Initiative was established in 1992 to encourage maternity hospitals to implement the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and to practice in accordance with the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.
The initiative works with the health-care system to ensure a high standard of care in relation to infant feeding for pregnant women and mothers and babies. Support is provided by UNICEF, with Scottish Government backing, for health-care facilities that are seeking to implement best practice. An assessment and accreditation process recognises those that have achieved the required standard.
About 60% of health boards in Scotland have achieved accreditation and now NHS Borders is taking the first steps towards the same goal.
Rachael added: “Breastfeeding figures for the Borders are higher than the national average but there is still more we can do to meet the standard set by the Government.
“NHS Borders is also working with Scottish Borders Council, childcare organisations and other community groups to look at how women can support each other with breastfeeding.
“Partner agencies will also seek to tackle some of the barriers that can make it uncomfortable or embarassing for mothers to breast feed in public places.”