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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Antrim Neonatal Unit receives nationally recognised mark of quality care

Antrim Area Hospital Neonatal Unit has become the first neonatal unit in Northern Ireland to receive full Baby Friendly accreditation by UNICEF.

The Team at the unit has worked towards Baby Friendly accreditation since 2017.  

Following funding by the Public Health Agency for breastfeeding lead roles in neonatal units, they gained the knowledge and skills to implement the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Neonatal specific standards.

The Team implemented simple but effective measures including:

  • comfortable recliner chairs for use by breastfeeding mothers

  • Breast pumps for each cot space

  • More privacy screens to encourage mothers to pump beside the cot

  • Meal vouchers for parents to have a hot meal each day

  • Small fridges in each nursery for mothers to manage their own breastmilk supply

  • Car parking tickets to enable free car parking on the Antrim Hospital site

  • A hydration station for parents and staff to drink water/juice throughout the day

  • Coat hangers for parents to feel at home and have somewhere to hang their belongings

  • A baby library to encourage parents to take a book and read to their baby

  • Promotion of breastmilk while supporting all choices/methods of feeding

The Neonatal Unit also offered access to both parents and grandparents, however temporary changes were necessary due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Supporting families to breastfeed and increasing the number of babies who are breastfed offers the best possible start in life.  This improves infant health and provides health benefits for mothers.  

Neonatal staff involve parents as true partners in care; they encourage relationship building, support breast milk use and the transition to breastfeeding.

Ruth McKinstry, Breastfeeding Lead Nurse, Neonatal Unit, Antrim Area Hospital, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to receive the Baby Friendly Accreditation.

“This work has helped both staff and parents to focus on family-centred care, ensuring families stay together at a most vulnerable time, surrounded by a supportive and welcoming environment and team.

“Breastmilk provides the unique nourishment required to meet babies nutritional needs, it helps fight infection, stimulates gut growth, aids digestion and research has also shown it can have an analgesic effect which is important for preterm and sick babies.”

Yvonne Palmer’s baby was born at just over 31 weeks. She said:

“I decided to breastfeed because it was the one thing I could do while the nurses and doctors helped with the other care.

“No one else can make the same tailor-made milk as my body can, which helps to build and grow my baby.”

The Northern Trust Maternity Service was accredited as a Gold Baby Friendly Service in May 2018. This good work has continued with the Neonatal Unit now achieving the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Neonatal specific standards.


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