A Glasgow breastfeeding support service, that has already helped more than 10,000 city mums give their babies the best start in life, has been honoured with a top award.
Volunteer Development Scotland has recognised the work of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s ‘Glasgow Breastfeeding Initiative’ (GBFI) and awarded the innovative service its coveted Investing in Volunteers Award.
At a presentation, Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, presented the award to representatives of the GBFI. She said: “I am delighted that programmes such as the Glasgow Breastfeeding Initiative have been set up and are making an important contribution to raising awareness, social acceptability and uptake of breastfeeding among new mums in the local community.
“I would like to offer my sincere congratulations to everyone involved in this Initiative and on achieving the Investing in Volunteers Award.
“The health benefits, to mother and baby, from breastfeeding cannot be underestimated and that is why the Scottish Government is committed to improving sustained breastfeeding rates in Scotland.”
The GBFI was established around 10 years ago with the aim of increasing the length of time women breastfeed their babies once they have left hospital. The key principle was to drive up breastfeeding rates to six weeks and beyond with particular focus on some of the city’s most deprived areas.
Research conducted in Easterhouse in the mid 1990s revealed that having mother-to-mother support within the community - once new mums had left hospital - enhanced their breastfeeding experience, provided vital support and encouragement and significantly challenged the prevailing formula-milk feeding culture at the time.
In 1997 the GBFI initiative was established and immediately began training up city mums who volunteered to become breastfeeding helpers. Since then more than 150 Glasgow women have been trained to support new mums overcome any difficulties with breastfeeding.
The result, together with a range of other breastfeeding support initiatives and interventions by the Health Board, has been a steady increase in breastfeeding rates beyond six weeks. In 1997 around 20.9 % of city mums stuck with breastfeeding however by 2006 this figure was up at 32.9%.
At present three teams of breastfeeding volunteers are working with NHSGGC Infant Feeding coordinators supporting mums in the south east, east and west of the city.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Infant Feeding Coordinator, Linda Wolfson, said: “I am delighted that the incredible work undertaken by the GBFI has been recognised in this way – what better way to say thank you to all the Mums who devote a great deal of time to helping others.
“Our breastfeeding volunteers act as a crucial lynchpin for mums – giving them the support and confidence to continue with what is undoubtedly the best start a baby can get.”
Sharron McMahon, 34, from Strathbungo, gave birth to her little boy Ennis in August this year. Sharron received support from two breastfeeding volunteers, both before she had her baby and when she returned home. The help and advice she received made a huge difference to her and little Ennis and she too has now volunteered to join the team of city helpers. She said: “It was brilliant to be able to contact the GBFI when I hit difficulties. Thanks to support from the GBFI I have continued breastfeeding and I’m loving it. It made such a difference to be able to chat through any difficulties with such ease and to another mum. Now Ennis is a little older I’ve decided to volunteer myself.”
George Thomson, Chief Executive, Volunteer Development Scotland, said: “Congratulations to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde for being the first in NHS Scotland to achieve an Investing in Volunteers award for their breast feeding project. The award is independent recognition for the quality of their work with volunteers. It is evidence of their dedication to provide volunteers with a good experience and ensure they make a real difference for the health and wellbeing of others. Well done.”
For further information and images from the award ceremony, including pictures of Sharron with baby Ennis, contact the press office on 0141 201 4429.
Notes to editors
Breastfeeding brings many benefits to mothers and babies. In babies, it can protect against chest and ear infections, gastro-enteritis and can aid better mental development. Mothers benefit from a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancer plus a faster return to pre-pregnancy figure.