The specialist community public health nursing programme at Canterbury Christ Church University has been given the internationally recognised Baby Friendly Initiative Award.
The university’s School of Public Health, Midwifery and Social Work has enhanced the training that student health visitors, school nurses and midwives receive to ensure they fully support mothers in making an informed decision about whether or not to breastfeed.
“The stories which have emerged about how students have supported mothers with breastfeeding have been really heartening”
The UK Baby Friendly Initiative University Standards programme, which is run by Unicef, is aimed at university departments responsible for midwifery, health visitor and public health nurse education.
Its purpose is to give newly-qualified midwives and health visitors the basic knowledge and skills they need to support breastfeeding mothers effectively.
A similar initiative, also run by Unicef, awards “baby friendly” status to maternity units and community teams that have worked to increase breastfeeding levels.
In 2009, the Canterbury school started to work towards achieving baby friendly status alongside expanding its course in line with the government’s Health Visitor Implementation Plan.
To achieve the status, student health visitors were assessed to ensure they would be giving useful and accurate information to help mothers initiate and sustain breastfeeding, and to build a strong relationship with their baby.
Jane Arnott, senior lecturer in the school, described the “journey” to accreditation as a “great privilege”.
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“Our students have fully engaged with the theoretical and practice components of the programme and the stories which have emerged about how they have supported mothers with breastfeeding have been really heartening,” she said.
“I believe the successful accreditation is the icing on the cake for our programme and demonstrates how serious we are about improving public health outcomes,” she added.
Colleague Gill Rapley noted that the school’s next goal at was to obtain “baby friendly” accreditation for its midwifery programme as well as working to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding throughout the university.