The Maternity Unit at Southend University Hospital has been shortlisted for a national award from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).
The unit has been shortlisted for its progress in promoting antenatal colostrum expression during the latter part of pregnancy, for mothers with a specific medical need such as those with diabetes.
Julie Newby, Infant Feeding Advisor at the hospital, explained: “The first milk that is produced in the breasts is called colostrum. This can be obtained during pregnancy after 36 weeks’ gestation and stored ready for baby should he or she need extra supplements. It is produced in small amounts during pregnancy and contains antibodies to protect newborns. It is often referred to as ‘liquid gold’ and can be collected 2-3 times a day in small syringes provided by the Maternity Unit and stored for three months in a home freezer at a minimum temperature of -18°C.”
Infants of mothers with diabetes are particularly at risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) in the first few hours after birth and antenatally expressed colostrum can be very useful to stabilise the infant’s blood glucose levels until feeding becomes established.
The project, which is still on-going, was started in 2015 and comes under the category of the Johnson’s Award for Excellence in Maternity Care. This award is for an individual or group of midwives who have pioneered an innovative development providing an excellent, compassionate standard of care to women, their babies and families.
On being shortlisted for the award, Sara Miall, Diabetes Specialist Midwife, said: “It’s great for the dedicated staff and department to be recognised at a national level. It helps showcase how we are continually striving to improve the lives of newborn babies and their mothers. Breastmilk is proven to have a positive impact on the longer term health of both mother and baby.”
Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Just to be shortlisted is a great achievement and I congratulate the team at Southend on getting this far. This award highlights how health professionals working together and being innovative can improve services and the care women receive. I wish the team the best of luck at the awards ceremony.”
The awards ceremony takes place in London on Tuesday 7 March.