During World Breastfeeding Week #WBW2019, we are hosting a series of guest blogs exploring how the wider team of health professionals and community breastfeeding support can support breastfeeding families. The WBTi Report found numerous gaps in health professional training in infant feeding, and we are delighted to see a terrific range of resources being developed to address this.
In this blog, Wendy Jones MBE discusses gaps in the training of pharmacists (See Indicator 5 in Part 2 of the WBTi report for our detailed findings on pharmacist training) and introduces her new free online educational resources for pharmacists.
On a daily basis I hear that pharmacy staff have advised mothers not to breastfeed whilst taking medication or have refused to sell products such as antihistamines to lactating mothers. This is frustrating for families (and me!) and unnecessary.
We know that there are barriers around breastfeeding and medication:
- The patient information leaflet – invariably it says that the product should not be used during lactation. This doesn’t imply risk usually rather that the manufacturer didn’t include breastfeeding when applying for marketing authorisation. For more information see this leaflet on the Breastfeeding Network website.
- Understanding of the importance of breastfeeding for the future health of mother and child. Sadly breastfeeding, let alone understanding the pharmacokinetics of transfer of drugs into breastmilk, is not covered currently in most undergraduate training. Most knowledge relies on personal experience (Jones W 2000 Doctoral thesis University of Portsmouth. The role of community pharmacy is supporting mothers requiring medication).
- Fear of litigation – to sell a medicine outside of its licence application entails taking responsibility. Pharmacists are concerned, rightly so if they do not access evidence-based information (Hale TW Medications and Mother’s Milk, Jones W Breastfeeding and Medication, LactMed , UKDILAS, Breastfeeding Network factsheets)
- Time – frequently counter assistants rather than busy pharmacists are involved in sales of simple medications and do not discuss safety in breastfeeding unless asked by the mother.
- Time limitations to consult expert sources.
Conflicts of interest
It has come to my attention recently that continued professional development (CPD) materials on infant feeding are being provided free of charge to make pharmacists and staff “Infant Feeding Champion”. Sadly, these are provided by the formula companies and the support of breastfeeding is considerably less than what I would describe as evidence based and full of advertisements for products ranging from nipple shields to nipple creams and specialist formulas.
New free training materials
I decided that I wanted to provide training materials for pharmacists and counter staff free of charge using the knowledge that I have gained over the past 31 years as a qualified, registered breastfeeding supporter as well as pharmacist with a specialist interest in the safety of drugs in breastmilk. The first module can be found here. More modules are underway looking at the pharmacokinetics of drug transfer and the treatment of common conditions.
In the meantime, my message is #DontSayStopLookItUp
I’m happy to be contacted:
- by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- or messaged via Facebook https://www.facebook.com/breastfeedingandmedication/
- or https://www.facebook.com/BfNDrugsinBreastmilkinformation/
and I will send detailed information to mothers and professionals.
Wendy was one of the founder members of a UK charity the Breastfeeding Network. In her employed life she was a community pharmacist and also worked in doctor surgeries supporting cost effective, evidence-based prescribing. She qualified as a pharmacist prescriber using her knowledge to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes in clinics to help patients stop smoking, weight optimisation and control of blood pressure and cholesterol. She feels she was best described as the conscience of the village. Her aim was to run clinics for breastfeeding mums needing medication but never managed it.
Wendy left paid work to concentrate on writing her book Breastfeeding and Medication (Routledge 2013, 2nd edition 2018), developing information and training material on drugs in breastmilk as well as setting up her own website http://www.breastfeeding-and-medication. She has also published Breastfeeding for Dads and Grandmas (Praeclarus Press) and Why Mothers Medication Matters (Pinter and Martin).
Wendy is known to many from her work on providing a service on the compatibility of drugs in breastmilk and has been a breastfeeding supporter for 30 years. She is passionate that breastfeeding should be valued by all and that medication should not be a barrier. She has 3 daughters and 5 grandchildren ranging in age from 6 years to 6 weeks. All her family seem as passionate about breastfeeding as she is and currently all 3 of her daughters are breastfeeding.
She was awarded a Points of Light award by the Prime Minister in May 2018 and was delighted to be nominated for an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List 2018 for services to mothers and babies. She received her award at Windsor Castle in May 2019 from Her Majesty the Queen.