North Somerset Council and Sirona care & health are celebrating after once again receiving a prestigious award jointly granted to the health visiting service and children’s centres in North Somerset.
The services have achieved a revalidation of their UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) UK Baby Friendly Initiative Gold Award after being granted the prestigious status last year.
The award celebrates excellent and sustained practice in the support of infant feeding and parent-infant relationships. The gold award is the highest standard for services which are accredited as Baby Friendly by UNICEF UK.
Services which achieve the gold award go through a revalidation process after a year. They have to submit a portfolio of evidence and assessors interview senior managers to make sure the services are maintaining their excellent standards.
In their report the assessors noted that ‘Enthusiasm for and commitment to maintaining and improving Baby Friendly standards was evident from all the staff interviewed. We would like to pass on our congratulations to everyone for their hard work and dedication to supporting best practice in North Somerset and beyond’.
Cllr Mike Bell, Deputy Leader of North Somerset Council and executive member with responsibility for public health, said: “I’m delighted that together we’ve achieved revalidation of our UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative Gold Award. My heartfelt congratulations and thanks go to colleagues working in health visiting, children’s centres, midwifery and public health who have all contributed to this fantastic achievement. The last 18 months have been incredibly challenging for everyone. That the services have achieved revalidation is real testament to their hard work and commitment to ensuring the best possible start in life for babies across North Somerset.
“I also have to say a big thank you to the local mums who volunteer as peer supporters, helping support other mums with breastfeeding. During lockdowns, they’ve had to provide support virtually but this never affected their dedication to supporting and helping other new mums.
Cllr Catherine Gibbons, Executive Member for Children’s Service and Lifelong Learning, said: “Breastfeeding matters because it protects babies against a range of illnesses including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy as well as asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in later life. We also know that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of some cancers – although mums might be more interested in hearing that once it is established it is easier, cheaper and less hassle than bottle feeding.
"But whichever way a mother chooses to feed her baby, she can be sure that she’ll be supported to form a strong loving relationship with her newborn – through having maximum skin to skin contact and understanding how her baby communicates with her and needs her to respond."
Amanda Yates, Health Visiting Lead North Somerset, Sirona care & health said: “To receive a revalidation of this prestigious award is incredibly gratifying, and reflects the commitment of both parents and staff alike to providing the children of North Somerset with the best start in life. It is rewarding to know that North Somerset families continue to benefit from our specialised infant feeding service. It is especially pleasing as parents are asked to take part in the assessment process and are giving such great feedback about us to UNICEF.”
“I’m very proud of our continued achievements that come from working in partnership with our valued peer supporters, local children’s centres and public health team. While we were all united in our commitment to providing support to mums throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I am especially proud that the commitment of the Health Visiting team was noted during my time with the assessor.
“This award has truly highlighted the on-going hard work of our health visitors in promoting breastfeeding and supporting mums and their babies. We are committed to sustaining and build on this success, and are looking to work with our families and partners to ensure that North Somerset sustains award winning services that we can all be proud of.”
Mary Lewis, Director of Nursing at Sirona care & health said: “To receive the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Gold Award again is an excellent achievement. We are very pleased for our North Somerset health visitors and their partners in North Somerset Council, as this has truly highlighted their on-going dedication and commitment to our services, and most importantly, to children and families.
“This is a fantastic award which celebrates excellent practice in infant feeding support, the important work our health visitors, children’s centre staff, peer supporters and many others play in nurturing the development of parent-infant relationships, and it makes me so proud of our collective team to continue being accredited as a Gold Baby Friendly service.”
The photograph shows (from left to right): Tamsyn Grant (North Somerset Council Public Health), Nicky Stead (North Somerset Council Children’s Centres), Naomi Haynes with baby Ffion, Hayley Burton (North Somerset Council Public Health), Sara Zinn (Sirona Health Visiting).