Our health visitors and family nurses are celebrating after being awarded ‘Baby Friendly’ accreditation from the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative, in recognition of their work to support breastfeeding and help parents provide the best possible care for their children.

The team has now won stage 3 accreditation, having already met the standards for stages 1 and 2.

The Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative  was set up to support breastfeeding and help parents form close, loving relationships with their children during the critical early years.

Baby friendly accreditation is offered for health visiting services that meet high standards designed to help parents to bond with their new baby, and feed their baby to support optimum health and development.

The stage 3 award means that the service is fully accredited. The award is given at the end of a rigorous process which includes feedback from mothers about their experience of the health visitor service, staff training assessments, and auditing and evaluating the service.

This includes making sure that mothers are supported to make informed choice with regards to feeding and caring for their babies, and are supported to have close and loving relationships.

Sian Taylor, a Health Visitor Locality Team Leader who led the Baby Friendly project, said: “This is a huge achievement – and it’s been a real team effort by members of health visitor teams across the county. Although I’ve been lucky enough to lead the project, its delivery has completely depended on the hard work and dedication of our health visiting teams, who work on a daily basis with breastfeeding women and really do go the extra mile to offer support when it’s needed.

We want to support parents to make the best choices for their families, and the award recognises the high quality of the services we provide.”

“All our clinicians now have annual training to make sure they can offer our families the most up-to-date information based on current research.”

“We feel much more confident that we are able to offer the right support if there are any problems.”

An Oxford-based mother said of the health visiting service: “My child would not have been breastfed without the help of my local health visitors: they came to my house to offer really clear, helpful advice, and helped put my mind to rest about all the niggles a new parent has.”

The Health Visitors stage 3 accreditation comes after three years of the service working to meet Unicef’s standards. The service received Stage 1 accreditation (demonstrating that the right policies and staff training plans were in place) in May 2015, followed by Stage 2 in March 2016 as staff put their training into practice.

Sian said: “We want to continue improving: we will be working to maintain and further develop services to support breastfeeding families.”

Find out more about dedicated service for children from birth to age five on their webpage.