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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Mums 'should get tailored care'
Mother holding baby
New mothers need to be helped to care for their babies, the guidance says
The NHS must ensure women and their newborn babies do not get "one-size-fits-all" care, a watchdog has said.

The National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence says every woman in England and Wales should get care tailored to their individual needs.

But its guidance for NHS staff also sets out gold standards for key health checks and breastfeeding help.

Child health experts said the guidance was "a step in the right direction".

Giving babies the best start in life through good quality post natal care means they are less likely to have health problems during childhood and into adulthood
Dr David Elliman, consultant in community child health

The NICE guidelines cover care for the first eight weeks of a baby's life.

They say health professionals should ensure they only give women the help and advice that is relevant to them - so if they have not had a Caesarean or a birth involving stitches, they do not need any information on those topics.

But there are some key pieces of information which parents need to hear over and over again, the watchdog said.

Each time a new parent comes into contact with a health professional during the first eight weeks of their baby's life, they should be offered the information and advice to enable them to care for their baby.

They should also be told what signs should prompt them to take their baby to a doctor and which should not.

The guidance also says NHS organisations should sign up to the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative which sets out how new mothers should be supported and helped to breastfeed their baby.

Currently, only 22% of women in the UK are exclusively breastfeeding at six months.

NICE estimates that, given the costs of implementing the Baby Friendly Initiative and the health benefits to babies, if breastfeeding rates increased by 10% by 2012 the NHS would save just over 1 million a year.

Health professionals should also ensure women are emotionally well, by checking with them and their family, and that they have adequate social support, the guidance says.

'Daunting'

Professor Rona McCandlish, who chaired the guideline development group said: "In the past postnatal care has often been considered the 'Cinderella service' of maternity care.

"This guideline recognises that women, babies and families deserve highest quality care after birth.

"It establishes clear, much needed national standards for healthcare professionals to help them offer women the support they need in the hours, days and weeks following birth."

Dr David Elliman, a consultant in community child health, said: "New babies require huge amounts of care and attention, and this can be daunting, particularly for first time parents.

"Helping mothers to know what signs and symptoms could indicate something serious so they know what to worry about and what is normal gives them reassurance and confidence.

"Giving babies the best start in life through good quality post natal care means they are less likely to have health problems during childhood and into adulthood."

Dame Karlene Davis, General Secretary of the RCM, said: "Good maternity services are the vital building block for long-term health improvement."

'Support is crucial'

Rosie Dodds, of the National Childbirth Trust, said: "The development of personalised care plans will help to ensure healthcare professionals provide individually tailored care for each woman.

"And the emphasis on communication between mothers and healthcare professionals is certainly a step in the right direction to ensuring all women are aware of the support available."

But she added: "These guidelines don't recommend a minimum number of postnatal care visits.

"We know access to supportive care throughout the first few weeks is essential to emotional and physical well-being of most new parents.

"It would help to work towards an understanding of the amount of care all women should be offered, with additional care available for those who need it."




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