The west’s biggest hospital is one of eight hospitals in Ireland which has been recognised as Baby Friendly.
University Hospital Galway is one of more than 20,000 hospitals/maternity units in 148 countries worldwide - including more than 400 in Europe - which has clinched the title.
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global programme by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund to implement best practice in maternity services for the promotion and support of breastfeeding.
UHG was first designated a “Baby Friendly Hospital” in 2006. Ongoing audits as well as recent external assessment, involving all grades of staff, and interviews with mothers was undertaken in order to retain this important award.
Colette Cowan, the director of nursing and midwifery at Galway University Hospitals, said the award means that UHG meets international standards.
“It has demonstrated that we promote informed parental decisions, we implement supportive practices for mother and baby care, we have a strong breastfeeding policy and we provide training for staff in order to be able to implement the policy. In addition it shows that we have maintained the necessary standards and this is monitored through annual audits and regular external assessments.”
She stated that meeting the criteria of a Baby Friendly Hospital requires significant dedication by the multi-disciplinary staff involved.
“I would like to acknowledge their hard work and commitment. It is a significant achievement that both maternity units in the Galway Roscommon University Hospital Group have “Baby Friendly Hospital” status. Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe was designated as Baby Friendly in 2004 and re-designated in 2009.”
Dr Genevieve Becker, the national co-ordinator of the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative in Ireland who presented the Baby Friendly National award to Galway University Hospitals congratulated the hospital on joining an “elite” group of hospitals.
She noted that about 43 per cent of births take place in the eight Irish maternity services that meet the criteria to be designated a Baby Friendly hospital.
“This percentage is higher than Spain, Germany and France and similar to that of the UK though behind the Scandinavian and Dutch rates.
“Last year approximately 38,000 newborn babies left Irish hospitals breastfeeding, giving them a healthy start in life as well as the health and economic importance for their mothers, families and wider society,” Dr Becker said.