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Giving babies the best start in life

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Giving babies the best start in life

Parents are receiving world-class breastfeeding support and encouragement at Joan Kirner Women and Children’s at Sunshine Hospital.   

It is one of only two maternity services in metropolitan Melbourne to hold coveted accreditation from the internationally recognised Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI). 

Developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF in 1990, the BFHI program recognises hospitals who promote, encourage and support breastfeeding.  

“It’s an incredible achievement to be recognised for our commitment to promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding through the BFHI’s rigorous assessment process,” Divisional Director Women’s and Children’s Services at Western Health Wendy Watson said. 

To be Baby Friendly, maternity providers must meet a set of standards that ensure all parents receive appropriate support and information regarding infant feeding before and after their baby is born.    

The assessment is based on the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and it includes everything from the information given to families, to the provision of skin-to-skin contact after birth.   202110_WHmidwivesOCT1_009(1).jpg

Joan Kirner Women and Children’s was reassessed for being Baby Friendly at the end of 2021.  

It received accreditation from external assessors from The Australian College of Midwives, who review hospital practices and interview staff and patients until 2027.  

Western Health Lactation Consultant Kathleen Halliday said they were delighted to receive the accreditation, which recognises that the maternity service is providing best care to families in Melbourne’s west.   

 “Accreditation requires everyone at our health service, who supports our families during before, during and after their baby is born, including obstetricians, midwives, nurses, allied health staff and lactation consultants, to consistently meet the world’s best practice when it comes to infant feeding.”    

“At Western Health, we recognise that breastfeeding is the optimal way for a woman to feed her infant and provides mothers and their babies with many health benefits, which is why we ensure our care centres around providing consistent, evidence-based information and advice to families.”   

The accessors congratulated the Western Health team for achieving the BFHI accreditation, particularly during the pandemic.  

“It took a lot of effort and dedication on your part (especially considering the recent changes to the Ten Steps, and the digitisation of the program due to COVID) and Western Heath deserves this recognition for your continuing commitment to women and families in your region.”   

Nine Victorian maternity services currently have accreditation.  The Joan Kirner Women and Children’s at Sunshine Hospital and the Royal Women’s Hospital are the only maternity services in metropolitan Melbourne listed as currently being Baby Friendly.   

Nationally, approximately one quarter of maternity services (70 out of 266) are accredited.    

Ms Halliday said it was important that parents knew that whilst the hospital was committed to breastfeeding, they also supported women who used formula to feed their babies.   

“We promote breastfeeding, but importantly, we support every family to care for and feed their baby in the best and safest way possible.”    

For families, some of the benefits of having their baby at a Baby Friendly accredited facility include:   

  • Factual and unbiased antenatal care and advice about caring for and feeding their baby, including the benefits of breastfeeding.   

  • Skin-to-skin contact right after birth so that their baby can breastfeed as soon as they are ready.   

  • Assistance breastfeeding in the first half hour or so after their baby is born.   

  • Being shown how to hold their baby, get their baby to latch on and how to maintain milk supply.   

  • Advice on how to express milk by hand, provided with the health benefits of sharing a room with your baby and making a bottle safely, should the family choose formula feeding.   

For more information visit the Western Health website.