POOLE Maternity Hospital has hit back after data showing that a number of mothers who gave birth at the unit missed out on skin-to-skin contact with their babies within an hour of delivery.

The hospital says it was accredited in 2016 as a UNICEF - United Nations - Baby Friendly Hospital and 'practices to the these standards in respect of all aspects of infant feeding'.

The NHS data showed that 890 mothers out of 3,900 - 23 per cent - who had their babies at the trust last year missed out on this important bonding time from 2017-2018.

This connection is said to have “lasting benefits” to both mother and child, including protecting babies from infection and encouraging them to breastfeed.

However, head of Midwifery at Poole, Sandra Chitty said: “The department conducts an audit of all mothers who were eligible to undertake skin to skin contact with their baby in the first hour of birth where this was appropriate.

"National guidance requires the department to achieve 80 per cent or above compliance for this indicator and audit findings for 2017/18 show that mothers reported having skin to skin contact with their babies in the first hour after birth was between 92 per cent and 100 per cent," she said.

"Women excluded are those who declined skin to skin, whose babies were too unwell to be offered skin to skin in the first hour as well as mothers who were too unwell themselves to undertake skin to skin in the first hour.”

She said the hospital was proud of its reputation amongst new mothers.

Poole midwife Amy Archer told the Bournemouth Echo: "As midwives, it is always our aim to provide care that ensures the best outcomes for women, their babies and their families. We work tirelessly 24 hours a day to provide the best possible care to families in the Dorset area."

She said that Poole midwives 'always actively encourage bonding between mother and baby' but: "Sometimes, it is not possible to facilitate skin to skin contact due to life-threatening situations As the women and babies we care for are more high risk, there is also a higher chance the baby will need resuscitation or breathing support when it is born."