23rd June 2015
A short article for Voices in National Breastfeeding Week by our Fellow, Zoe Ralph, Health Visitor / Community Practice Teacher / Infant feeding worker, showing the important role that health visitors play in promoting breastfeeding.
As a health visitor and community practice teacher, I believe that the health visiting service is essential in raising the profile of breastfeeding.
Health visitors, health visiting staff nurses and community staff nurses all have extensive training and experience in supporting parents in making informed choices. Health visiting teams are able to support women with the basics of breastfeeding; this is supported by many trusts that are working towards baby-friendly status. Simple measures such as accurate and evidence-based advice in relation to positioning and attachment, and continued skin-to-skin between mother and baby can make a real difference to the initiation and sustainability of breastfeeding.
Parents often tell me that the relationship with the health visitor and the continued support of the same professional allows for them to tell their story once and move forwards with their breastfeeding journey.
Health visitors are soon to be mandated to deliver five key contacts as part of the healthy child programme. Breastfeeding and infant feeding in each of these contacts allows the emotional attachments and the health benefits of breastfeeding to be discussed in a meaningful way with parents.
Health visitors are essential in supporting women and babies when breastfeeding challenges occur such as thrush, mastitis and blocked ducts. Initiatives such as the Manchester community infant feeding service allows for increased parental and professional knowledge in relation to complex feeding issues.
The health visitor with their leadership skills are key to raising the profile of breastfeeding locally through building community capacity projects, with the parents they directly work with and nationally on a strategic level.
Health Visitor / Community Practice Teacher / Infant feeding worker Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust