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University of Leicester wins award for training in breast feeding

Professor Jayne Marshall

The University of Leicester has been awarded the prestigious Baby Friendly Award (BFI) from UNICEF in recognition of the high levels of breastfeeding training given to Midwifery students.

Formal presentation of the award from the UK Committee for UNICEF will take place later this summer when Pro vice-chancellor, Professor Henrietta O’Connor, will hand it over to staff and students studying the undergraduate Master in Science (MSci) Midwifery with Leadership course. 

The news comes in the same week the NHS celebrates its 75-year anniversary. 

Professor Jayne Marshall, Lead Midwife for Education and Deputy Head of the School of Healthcare, said: “This certificate from the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative is a reflection of our ongoing commitment to ensure a high standard of training in breastfeeding for all student midwives graduating from this course.

“We know that many women give up breastfeeding before they want to because of difficulties which could have been prevented if skilled help had been on hand. By ensuring that our students are fully trained in how to help a mother breastfeed her child, more women will be able to breastfeed their babies for longer.”

Dr Helen McIntyre who is the BFI Lead for the Midwifery Programme added: “Breastfeeding protects babies against a wide range of serious illnesses, including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy, as well as cardiovascular disease, asthma, diabetes and obesity later in life. We also know that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of some cancers, and that it supports the mental health of both mother and baby.

“But however a mother chooses to feed her baby, she can be sure that she will 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.”

The Baby Friendly Initiative is a global programme which aims 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 Baby Friendly Initiative works with public services and universities 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 Baby Friendly University Award was launched in the UK in 2008 – the first such award anywhere in the world – in order to ensure high levels of training in breastfeeding are incorporated in midwifery and health visitor training courses. The University Award recognises that a university has implemented best practice in breastfeeding training and has passed a thorough external assessment by UNICEF UK staff.

Anne Woods, Deputy Programme Manager for the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative, said: “We are delighted that the University of Leicester has received this award.

“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. Working towards full Baby Friendly accreditation means that newly qualified midwives from the University of Leicester will have the strong foundation of knowledge needed to care for families and to help mothers and babies receive the breastfeeding support they require.”