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iHV thanks Alison Spiro, Expert Adviser for breastfeeding, for longstanding support

29th March 2022

After more than 7 years of tireless support, Alison Spiro will step down as the iHV’s Expert Adviser for breastfeeding.

Dr Alison Spiro, iHV Expert Adviser for breastfeeding

The iHV has a number of health visitor ‘Expert Advisers’ who provide invaluable support to our organisation on a range of specialist topics. We are indebted to them for sharing their expertise and for the work that they do representing health visitors, and the iHV, in numerous national forums.

Alison Morton, Executive Director iHV, paid tribute to Alison’s Spiro’s long tenure:

“Alison Spiro is one of the UK’s leading experts on breastfeeding and it has been our immense privilege to have her working alongside the iHV as our Expert Adviser for breastfeeding for more than 7 years. I am particularly indebted to Alison for her boundless knowledge and expertise representing the iHV and being a national ‘voice’ for the profession on breastfeeding matters. Alongside this, Alison’s enduring kindness, tenacity and support has ensured that the iHV remained abreast of contemporary breastfeeding issues and at the heart of a number of policy forums and international research projects. We wish Alison every success in her next steps promoting her forthcoming book and ongoing role in supporting mothers in the community”.

Look out for Alison’s book, ‘Breastfeeding for Public Health: a resource for community healthcare professionals’ which is due to be published on 11 April by Routledge.

Alison will also be speaking at our iHV In Focus ‘Breastfeeding Now’ conference on Thursday 31 March.

We are delighted to announce that Gail Barker will be picking up the baton of iHV Expert Adviser for breastfeeding and are very grateful for Alison’s ongoing support as Gail transitions into this role. Gail is a health visitor (Specialist Community Public Health Nurse) who holds the role of Health Visitor Professional Lead within Devon Public Health Nursing.

Read Alison Spiro’s reflection on her numerous achievements as iHV Expert Adviser

I have always believed that supporting breastfeeding parents is a vital aspect of health visiting in their role in primary prevention. I worked as an infant feeding lead in both a Community Trust and Hospital Trust in North West London, bringing both trusts to be accredited by Unicef as Baby Friendly.

I started work on the World Breastfeeding Trends initiative (WBTi) Report in 2015 and was asked by Cheryll Adams (Executive Director of iHV at that time) to represent the iHV. This report followed an internationally agreed tool to investigate the state of breastfeeding in the UK by monitoring the implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. It was published in 2016 and launched in Parliament that year.

In 2018, I helped to organise a joint iHV and WBTi breastfeeding conference at the Royal Society of Public Health. This conference brought together specialists and policy makers from national and local public health, Royal Colleges, health visitors, doctors, breastfeeding specialists and peer supporters, and researchers to look at the importance of breastfeeding as a public health priority for the UK, and to consider recommendations and practical steps to improve support for breastfeeding families.

In 2018/19, I worked with Cheryll Adams and Public Health England representing the iHV on the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) Yale University report, sitting on the GB and England committees. These were led by Professor Sally Kendall and the University of Kent. This was a thorough investigation into the state of breastfeeding in the UK, involving academics and professionals, and made recommendations to the English and devolved government departments of Scotland and Wales, who published their recommendations in 2019, but England has yet to publish its recommendations.

Cheryll asked me to represent the iHV on the beginnings of the Breastfeeding Alliance in 2018. Since then, all the breastfeeding organisations have come together and have worked on their shared goals, training and vision for the future. I have worked on the core competencies working group and we hope to publish these by the end of 2022. This Alliance will give us one voice to represent breastfeeding at a local level for commissioners and Government. Best Beginnings is acting as the secretariat for this initiative.

In 2018, I joined the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infant Feeding and Inequalities representing the iHV. It meets every two months and is attended by MPs from all parties to review presentations on social and legal aspects of infant feeding and raise its importance to the health of mothers and their babies. I was also asked by the iHV to join the Baby Feeding Law Group in 2018, which works with First Steps Nutrition to monitor the law protecting parents from unlawful, unethical advertising of formula milks, and works with the APPG to change the law around the advertising of follow-on milks and weaning foods.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, since 2020, I have written several blogs on breastfeeding for Voices on the iHV website. In October 2021, I spoke at an iHV webinar on breastfeeding support and will speak at the iHV breastfeeding conference in March 2022.

During my 7 years of work with the iHV, I have answered breastfeeding media queries and commented on documents and policies. I have enjoyed this work and hope I have been a national voice advocating for health visitors in their important role of supporting all parents who wish to breastfeed.

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