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Gail Barker

iHV Expert Adviser:  Infant Feeding

MSc Public Health Research, Bsc Hons SCPHN HV, RN, HE Dip BF Counselling, IBCLC

Gail Barker is a specialist community public health nurse who holds the role of Health Visitor Professional Lead within Devon Public Health Nursing and iHV Expert Adviser for Infant Feeding.

She became interested in the benefits of and barriers to breastfeeding many years ago when expecting her first child and nursing on an intensive care unit, where non-communicable challenges such as obesity, mental health and lifestyle factors can have such an impact on health outcomes. She quickly realised the influence that infant feeding can have on health, wellbeing, and building close and loving relationships for life.

As an NCT breastfeeding counsellor, she supported many parents and noted the inequity of accessible support as a challenge for parents. As a lactation consultant, she recognised not only the complexity of breastfeeding challenges, but also the simpleness of getting breastfeeding off to a good start – which can only happen when support, culture and societal expectations are all aligned. As a health visitor, it was apparent for some children that the gap in health inequalities would continue to grow, and the impact on physical, emotional and climate health for the child and family was significant and ever growing.

Breastfeeding has a significant part to play in reducing inequalities but this can only happen if services and professionals see this support as part of a wider system. Early feeding relationships and public health outcomes being a constant consideration when undertaking her MSc in Public Health, enabled Gail to accept that the playing field is neither flat, nor equal, nor fair for every child. It is what has inspired her to champion a public health approach in the support of breastfeeding and responsive infant feeding for every baby in every part of life, through ensuring that we as professionals hold it high on our agenda.

Gail is responsible for:

  • Supporting the Institute of Health Visiting to ensure a focus on Infant Feeding that supports responsive feeding which promotes public health outcomes for mother and child.
  • Providing a working knowledge of wider systems that can optimise wider system-supported breastfeeding.
  • Support and influence local and national policy to ensure that breastfeeding remains a key focus for mothers and babies within the United Kingdom.
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