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Best of care for babies

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Award recognising high levels of care for sick babies and their families.

Europe’s biggest neonatal unit has been given a prestigious Unicef UK award for its care of the most vulnerable babies and their families.

Public Health Minister Joe Fitzpatrick has congratulated the unit at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow on receiving the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative award.

This supports parents to have close and loving relationships with their pre-term or sick baby by enabling them to touch, talk and care for their babies, as well as supporting skin to skin contact and responsive feeding.

Parents have 24-hour access to their babies and the initiative aims for them to be seen as the primary care givers, while staff work with them to help babies receive breast milk and to breastfeed when possible. This includes discussing with parents the value of breast milk for premature and sick babies’ current and future health as well as development.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “This highly acclaimed award recognises the dedication and hard work of staff in the neonatal unit at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. To be the biggest neonatal unit in Europe and achieve this level of accreditation is a fantastic accomplishment, and everyone involved should be extremely proud of what they are doing to help premature babies, and new parents during what can be a very difficult time.”

Sue Ashmore, Director of Baby Friendly at Unicef UK, said: “Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow is really leading the way in improving the lives of some of our most vulnerable babies and their families.

“Over 6000 babies in Scotland are born sick or premature every year. These babies are profoundly vulnerable, often facing serious challenges to their health and development. The parent-child relationship, breastmilk and skin-to-skin contact are vitally important to give these babies the best possible chance to thrive.

“But we know that being in a neonatal unit can create physical barriers to touch, smell and breastfeeding, which can make establishing and fostering a loving and responsive parent-child relationship really difficult.

“The Baby Friendly Initiative makes a huge difference to these babies and their families, by recognising the lifeline that breastmilk provides, and the importance of close, loving, parent-child relationships for babies’ development and life chances. Even where the physical environment is challenging, a great deal can be done with some radical re-thinking about the roles of professionals and parents, and imaginative ways of working.

Gillian Bowker, NHSGGC’s Neonatal infant feeding advisor said: “It’s a wonderful achievement for the QEUH neonatal unit to be recognised by Unicef and the unit is extremely proud to achieve this award. Each year in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, around one in 10 babies are admitted to neonatal units, having been born sick or premature.

“These babies are very vulnerable and frequently face serious challenges to their health and development. The parent-child relationship and breast milk feeding are vitally important to give these babies the best possible start in life.

“At the QEUH Staff continue to deliver specialised care to the children, however we now put the parents at the centre of care for their child which is hugely beneficial to the whole family. The benefits of this early closeness goes way beyond a baby’s stay on the neonatal unit.

“We have had great feedback from families saying they feel much more confident caring for their baby both in the neonatal unit and when discharged home.”


The Scottish Government funds Unicef UK to deliver Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation assessments in maternity hospitals, neonatal units, community settings and universities that provide midwife and health visitor courses in Scotland. More than £80,000 was allocated in 2018/19 as part of the Scottish Government’s wider Programme for Government commitment to breastfeeding.

Scotland is celebrating the most progress in the UK in achieving the Unicef UK Baby Friendly best practice standards.

The Baby Friendly Initiative’s accreditation programme is recognised and recommended in numerous government and policy documents across all four UK nations, including the NICE guidance. The accreditation is a nationally recognised mark of quality care for babies and mothers.

The staged accreditation programme trains health professionals in hospitals, health visiting services and children’s centres to support mothers to breastfeed and help all parents to build a close and loving relationship with their baby irrespective of feeding method.  They also work with university midwifery and health visiting programmes to provide students with a strong foundation of knowledge on feeding and parent-infant relationships. 

Whilst supporting breastfeeding is at the heart of the programme, Baby Friendly Initiative aim to raise standards of care for all babies, regardless of how they are fed. 

About the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative:
Unicef UK works in hospitals and children’s centres to help new parents give their babies the love, care and nourishment they need to get the best start in life. Our Baby Friendly Initiative works with health professionals – from midwives to neonatal nurses –to make sure every new mum gets expert support to nurture and feed their baby, whenever they need it. As part of a wider global partnership with the World Health Organization, the programme has revolutionised healthcare around infant feeding and parent-child relationships for all babies and mums. In everything we do, the mother and baby are our sole priority, because we know that the first days and weeks of a child’s life can determine his or her future.

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Last Updated: 10 July 2018