Maternity staff at Kingston Hospital are celebrating after being recognized by a prestigious UNICEF initiative that seeks to improve care for mothers and babies in the UK.

On Friday (October 1), the NHS Trust announced they were officially 'Baby Friendly' after receiving the Baby Friendly Award from the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) Baby Friendly Initiative.

Kingston Hospital, the latest UK health care facility to gain recognition, gained the recognition for improving care for mothers and in particular for their work in improving breastfeeding rates.

"We set out to ensure that all mothers and babies are supported to form a close and loving relationship – whatever their choice of feeding method – as this is the best start for every baby," Kingston Hospital’s Infant Feeding Lead, Breda Murphy, said.

UNICEF's Baby Friendly initiative is a global programme aiming to transform healthcare for babies, their mothers and families as part of a wider global partnership between UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the UK, the project works with public services to better support families with feeding and developing close, loving relationships in order to ensure that all babies get the best possible start in life. The award is given to hospitals after an assessment by a UNICEF UK team has shown that recognised best practice standards are in place.

Kingston Hospital’s Director of Midwifery, Gina Brockwell, said she and the team were "so grateful to all of the maternity staff whose amazing efforts have allowed us to achieve this award. They have worked tirelessly during a difficult period in healthcare to provide high quality care for women and their families in their chosen method of feeding".

"We are delighted that Kingston Hospital has achieved full Baby Friendly status," added UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Programme Director, Sue Ashmore. "Our work to support breastfeeding is based on extensive and resounding evidence that breastfeeding saves lives, improves health and cuts costs in every country worldwide, rich and poor alike. Mothers at Kingston Hospital can be confident that their midwives will provide high standards of care," she said.

According to the WHO, breastfeeding is "one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival". However, nearly two out of three infants worldwide are not exclusively breastfed for the six months that the organization recommend — a rate that has not improved in the last two decades.

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