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Breastfeeding Specialist Wins Award
Leigh-Ann Johnstone, holding her award, pictured with Royal College of Midwives’ president Lesley Page.
An NHS Lanarkshire worker who promotes breastfeeding has won a prestigious national award for the support she gives to families with sick and vulnerable babies.
Leigh-Ann Johnstone took the prize for Maternity Support Worker of the Year in the Royal College of Midwives’ Annual Midwifery Awards.
Breastfeeding support service assistant Leigh-Ann works in Wishaw General Hospital’s busy neo-natal unit, which cares for Lanarkshire’s premature and unwell babies.
Leigh-Ann said: “I’m absolutely delighted to receive this prestigious award. I feel very fortunate to support mothers and families and take great satisfaction knowing I have helped at such a vulnerable time in their lives.
“I have to thank all my colleagues in the neonatal unit who have been so supportive.”
Leigh-Ann visits the mothers of all the babies admitted to the neo-natal unit to give them information on the importance of breast milk, allowing them a fully informed choice about feeding. She also provides support to help them start and sustain lactation and remains in touch with parents after the baby leaves hospital to offer continuing support, regardless of their feeding choice.
Leigh-Ann added: “I have two young sons and was a breastfeeding mum myself. I know how much I appreciated the help I got and I love having the chance to do the same for other new mothers.”
Irene Barkby, NHS Lanarkshire director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions, said: “We’re delighted for Leigh-Ann, whose award is well-deserved. She is passionate about the importance of breast milk and the health of the babies in the neonatal unit and, with the support of her colleagues, has provided vital help and advice to breastfeeding mothers.
“Leigh-Ann works just three days a week but, since her arrival, there has been a significant rise in the numbers of babies receiving their mothers’ milk - the very best medicine for these sick and vulnerable infants.”
Leigh-Ann received her award at a ceremony in London on March 8.
The judges said her nomination was “exceptional” and added: “Leigh-Ann's passion and enthusiasm shone through and it was clear to all why women would feel supported and well cared for by her. The evidence presented demonstrated that this initiative has made a massive difference to women and their babies in the unit at a very vulnerable time in their lives.”
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “Maternity support workers like Leigh-Ann play a vital role within the maternity care team. Her work not only frees up midwives’ and neonatal nurses’ time, but also improves the care babies receive.
“The lifelong benefits these babies will have from breastfeeding can’t be underestimated.”
NHS Lanarkshire was the only Scottish health board with finalists at the awards.
Midwife Marie Carroll-Smith, who works at Wishaw General Hospital, was among the finalists for the UK Mums’ Midwife of the Year after she was voted Scottish winner.
Consultant midwife Maureen McSherry and senior charge midwife Carole Burns and the staff of ward 23 were shortlisted in the Better Births category for their post-natal debriefing project – an initiative to improve the assessment of women’s experience of giving birth.