Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe has again scooped the “Baby Friendly Hospital” award.
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global campaign by the World Health Organisation and The United Nation Children’s Fund. It recognises that implementing best practice in maternity services is crucial to the success of programmes promoting breastfeeding.
Mary Mahon, clinical midwife specialist in breastfeeding/lactation at Portiuncula Hospital, said Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rate in Europe.
“This is despite the fact that breast milk, recognised as the optimum choice in infant food, confers nutritional, immunological and psychological benefits that sustain growth and significantly influences health during childhood and into adult life. Portiuncula Hospital is committed to promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding and helping mothers have an enjoyable fulfilling and rewarding breastfeeding experience.
“The hospital provides a 24 hour phone-in midwife support to breast feeding mums. There is a clinic every Wednesday run by appointment which is there to help mums who are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding. We also provide a directory of breastfeeding support groups in the hospital’s catchment area to mothers, which advises them of times, dates and locations of support groups.”
She stated the decision to breastfeed is a very important one. “It can mean better health for mum and for baby both now and in the future. Research shows that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from diabetes, asthma, eczema, obesity and heart disease later in life. Health benefits for mothers include reducing their risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes.”
The Baby Friendly Hospital Award was first achieved by Portiuncula in 2004 and is conferred on hospitals which meet the global breastfeeding standards of the WHO/UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.
“This is a quality initiative which aims to improve maternity services for all mothers and babies by implementing research based best practices. Portiuncula Hospital has achieved a further 10 per cent increase in breastfeeding rates over the past five years. This is attributed to the antenatal information programme it provides to parents to enable them make an informed choice around infant feeding, the individual support mothers get during their hospital stay and the follow-on support provided to mothers after their discharge from hospital.”
Portiuncula Hospital also received a “Breastfeeding Supportive Workplace” silver award for the support and facilities available to their staff returning to work while continuing to breastfeed their babies.