Making our hospitals more baby friendly

Westmead Hospital neonatal intensive care unit nurse Mariann Hennessy (right) practices giving advice to Lauren Whalan from Child and Family Health.

Helping mums breastfeed for longer is the aim of new district-wide training that began at Westmead Hospital today.

Ninety-seven per cent of mums in Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) say they plan to breastfeed, but those figures quickly drop upon discharge from hospital.

The benefits of breastfeeding for babies include stronger immune systems and reduced risk of allergies, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome, and the benefits for mums include reduced risk of cancer and osteoporosis.

Clinical midwifery consultant Rachel Jones and her team are aiming to raise the success rate by launching a new breastfeeding education model.

The interactive classes are broken into four workshops with just a few key points to learn at each.

The first round of training was delivered today to 24 multidisciplinary staff including midwives, nurses, occupational therapists, neonatologists and students.

“As health staff, we can help with breastfeeding education before birth, lots of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, not separating the mother and child unless it’s medically necessary, and making sure mums are shown how to breastfeed before they leave hospital,” Rachel said.

“Ultimately we want every staff member who is involved in the care of mothers and babies to have a basic level of understanding of how to support breastfeeding.”

The workshops are one of many strategies being implemented around the district in pursuit of baby-friendly health initiative (BFHI) accreditation.

Auburn Hospital midwife Jawaher Masri and Westmead Hospital registered nurse Sophie Dalton.

Westmead Hospital’s birth unit has employed a skin-to-skin midwife to assist with this improvement, and Rachel said resources have been developed for Blacktown and Auburn hospitals.

The training at Westmead today involved staff from across the district as well as Nepean Hospital learning through an interactive “tell, show, do, feedback” model.

“It’s been really nice to see the cooperation between all different staff embracing this structured, integrated, research-based education,” Rachel said.

“We’re excited now to roll it out across the district thanks to the support of managers.”

For more information about breastfeeding, check out Women’s and Newborn Health or the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

To find out more about staff training, email