When breastfeeding works, the benefits are endless. In addition to the obvious nutrition and health benefits for the baby, it’s incredibly convenient (no sterilisers or waiting for bottles to be ready!) and it helps Mum and Baby to bond. But when it’s a struggle, it can be heartbreaking for parents. And there can be so many reasons why they find it difficult – from positioning the baby correctly, tongue tie in the baby, to not feeling confident that the baby is taking enough milk. Postnatally, parents are highly vulnerable and both mums and dads can suffer from post-natal depression; therefore, if there are ways to make their lives easier, it’s our job to do so! This week marks the annual World Breastfeeding Week (1st – 7th August 2019) with an emphasis on empowering mums to enable them to breastfeed for longer. New parents will be visiting your practice for vaccinations and check-ups, so you’re ideally placed to help support breastfeeding.
It’s widely recognised that here in the UK, we have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) state that if the breastfeeding rate in the UK were improved, there would be a profoundly positive impact on child health. They state that if we could increase the number of babies who are breastfed, this could potentially reduce common childhood illnesses such as ear, chest and gut infections. In turn, this would save the NHS up to £50 million each year. It’s been demonstrated in other European countries that it’s possible to promote this change.*
With stretched budgets and busy teams, healthcare professionals aren’t seeing new mums as often as they once did, but in your practice you have a few opportunities to offer support to parents, as we know they’ll visit your practice regularly over the first few months of their new baby’s life.
Practice Index has produced a fantastic poster for your waiting room to reassure mums that they’re welcome to breastfeed their babies in your practice – download here [PLUS] If you know where your local breastfeeding groups meet, you could place a poster next to this one – perhaps in the waiting room where parents wait for their vaccinations – to list where mums can go to find help.
Using your practice social-media accounts to focus on the issue of finding support for breastfeeding can also be helpful. It may be difficult for parents to know where to look for help and they may feel worried about reaching out, so you could possibly use some of the following posts:
Questions about breastfeeding? Did you know the National Breastfeeding Helpline can be contacted at any time on 0300 100 0212?
Dad’s, we need your help! Top tips on supporting breastfeeding here
Got a question on breastfeeding but don’t know where to look for help? NHS Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend is now available on Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Facebook Messenger 24/7!
Need some advice on breastfeeding? There’s always help at hand: @BfN_UK @babyfriendly #WorldBreastfeedingWeek2019
Breast milk contains literally thousands of bioactive compounds that have specific effects on infant health, each customised for that particular mother and baby: @Medela_UK #WorldBreastfeedingWeek2019
We all have a role to play in supporting breastfeeding. Read more here #WorldBreastfeedingWeek2019
It’s disappointing to read that, when babies reach six weeks old, only 24% of mums in the UK are exclusively breastfeeding. This may be due to fears of social stigma, embarrassment, soreness, positioning difficulties, a lack of milk, exhaustion, or a host of other reasons. Yet there are so many benefits to both Baby and Mum, and of course to the NHS. Let’s see if we can encourage and empower new mums to feel confident and comfortable about breastfeeding by providing them with the information and support they need at such a demanding and challenging time.
* Source: Unicef