The introduction of new clip-on cots at Airedale Hospital is helping to keep new mums and babies close so they can establish good feeding in the first few days after birth.

The latest baby friendly move has helped the hospital gain a prestigious national standard that recognises hospitals giving the best care to new mothers.

The maternity unit has been awarded the Baby Friendly Stage 1 Assessment from Unicef and the World Health Organisation.

It recognises the high standard of care for mothers and babies and the hospital's commitment to support mothers to breastfeed.

It is only awarded when hospitals can show they have policies and procedures in place to deliver and maintain high standards of care.

All Airedale Hospital maternity staff are given training in how to support mums and give one-to-one sessions on the benefits of breastfeeding just before mums-to-be have their baby.

Once babies are born staff make sure they have skin-to-skin contact with their mum within half an hour of delivery.

The hospital at Steeton, near Keighley, has a successful breastfeeding initiation rate of about 70 per cent and the new clip on' cots, which mean babies can sleep as close to their mums as possible while being safely in their own cot, could help this increase.

The seven cots can be used for breastfeeding mums who, for example, have had a caesarean section and find it difficult to get out of bed in the early hours.

With the new cots they will are able to reach for their babies without having to call the midwife for help or get out of bed themselves and so feed them much more easily.

Lis Osborne, infant feeding advisor at Airedale Hospital said: "These new cots are great and the babies can sense their mums are close.

"We want to give new mums the best possible start to feeding their babies and these cots can really help.

"Research has proved that mums feed their babies more often if they are close as it helps mums recognise the little signs their baby gives to say they are hungry - babies don't just cry but they also start sucking on their hands and being close by in these cots means a mum can start feeding straight away before the baby cries - and this all helps for successful and happy feeding."

Breastfed babies and their mothers receive natural protection against a wide range of illnesses. For the baby it gives protection against serious stomach and ear infections, there is less chance of allergies such as eczema, a lower risk of diabetes and better mental development.

For the mum the benefits include a lower risk of breast cancer, stronger bones in later life and a faster return to her pre-pregnancy figure.

The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for at least six months. However, only two-thirds of babies are breastfed at all and just a fifth are still receiving their mothers' milk at six months.

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