How confident do medical students feel about supporting breastfeeding?

How confident do medical students feel about supporting breastfeeding?

A new study by trainee doctor Kirsty Biggs and senior colleagues has shown that 97% of the 411 medical students who responded to a survey are uncertain of their practical skills to support new mothers with breastfeeding, such as helping with latch issues, although the overall benefits of breastfeeding were moderately well-known. Yet most students (93%) perceived doctors to have an important role in supporting breastfeeding and the same percentage requested further breastfeeding education.

Over 80% of the respondents had a career interest in obstetric and gynaecology, paediatrics and/or general. While the sample was only around 1% of UK medical students, and only one-quarter of the students responding were male, it’s a very clear message that breastfeeding education overall is not adequate. 

Around 80% of the 32 UK medical schools eligible responded to their part of the survey and results indicate that only 70% of medical schools provide compulsory breastfeeding education. 

WBTI’s findings and vision

The WBTi UK report in 2016 indicated that medical curricula have many gaps with regard to breastfeeding, and Biggs’ study confirms that the students themselves find it inadequate. WBTi UK’s vision is that all doctors have sufficient training in infant feeding to protect the decisions of mothers who want to breastfeed.

UK Health Professional training standards mapped against WHO educational checklist. From the WBTI UK report. See also Part 2 for details of individual specialisms

How can the situation be improved? 
High level standards and Unicef BFI learning outcomes

The General Medical Council provides broad guidelines for undergraduate curricula in its Outcomes for Graduates document and each medical school devises its own curriculum to fit the guidelines. For example, the expectation under the Outcomes Health promotion and illness prevention section is: ‘Newly qualified doctors must be able to apply the principles, methods and knowledge of population health and the improvement of health and sustainable healthcare to medical practice’.  Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative’s learning outcomes for several professions, including medical students, published in November 2019 are highly relevant to improving curricula and accompanying resources are being developed. 

RCPCH curriculum – an encouraging sign

Medical training is long, with undergraduate, Foundation and then specialty training. The RCPCH (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health) states as part of its activity to promote breastfeeding: ‘The RCPCH training curriculum for General Paediatricians and all paediatric subspecialties requires training to understand the importance of breastfeeding and lactation physiology, be able to recognise common breastfeeding problems, have knowledge of formula and complementary feeding, and be able to advise mothers or refer for support.’

Resources available

Qualified doctors also benefit from improving and updating their skills and knowledge. RCGP’s (Royal College of General Practitioners) Breastfeeding Position Statement has a link in the first sentence to its online resource on breastfeeding. 

by Patricia Wise

I’m very pleased that my e-book Supporting Mothers Who Breastfeed: A guide for trainee and qualified doctors, which is particularly aimed at trainers and trainee doctors, has been included in the Postnatal care guidelines of RCGP Learning.

The GP Infant Feeding Network (GPIFN) and Hospital Infant Feeding Network (HIFN) websites contain extensive information for doctors. 

Other resources include Amy Brown and Wendy Jones’ book A guide for the Medical Professionpublished in December 2019.

Guidance to qualified doctors

Mentioning infant feeding in guidance to doctors to encourage including it in consultations is also important. GP Louise Santhanam (founder of GPIFN) is the lead author of Postnatal Maternal and  Infant care during the COVID-19 Pandemic: a Guide for General Practice that was recently added to the RCGP website. This clarifies that 6-8 week checks need to continue despite the Covid-19 pandemic and that infant feeding should be a routine clinical consideration.

Postnatal Maternal and Infant Care during COVID-19: A Guide for GPs by Louise Santhanam

The challenge

Thus plenty of resources are available but doctors are busy people. While some really understand the importance of protecting breastfeeding, and know how to  – such as signposting mothers to local skilled help – the challenge is how to bring this into every medical student’s training.

If you know anyone at medical school, it would be really useful if you can let them know about Kirsty Biggs’ study.

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Banner photo from Freepic

Patricia Wise is an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor, a member of the WBTi UK Steering Group, and the author of Supporting Mothers Who Breastfeed: A guide for trainee and qualified doctors

Shocking gaps in emergency preparedness for Europe’s babies

Shocking gaps in emergency preparedness for Europe’s babies

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how important it is for countries to protect their citizens from illness.

Yet a new WBTi regional report shows gaps in support for families across Europe, with the poorest overall scores in national leadership and, shockingly, emergency preparedness, where the UK scored 0/10. This pandemic is an emergency for infants and young children and only North Macedonia was found to have an adequate strategy.

Babies who are breastfed have better health and resistance to infection, and most mothers want to breastfeed. Yet many European mothers stop or reduce breastfeeding in the early weeks and months, and bottle feeding is prevalent, due to inadequate support from health systems and society.

Launched today, the first European report on infant and young child feeding policies and practices, Are our babies off to a healthy start?, compares 18 countries and identifies the considerable improvements they need to make in supporting mothers who want to breastfeed. A summary report has been published today in the International Breastfeeding Journal .

The full report can be downloaded from the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative global website.    

The new report, Are our babies off to a healthy start?, compares the  implementation of WHO’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding across 18 European countries. The comparisons show clearly that inadequate support and protection for breastfeeding mothers is a Europe-wide problem. The health of babies, mothers and whole populations  lose out as a result. However, countries do differ considerably. Turkey rates highest overall; the five countries with the lowest scores belong to the European Union. 

     ‘Nutrition is key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals related to health, education, sustainable development, reduction of inequalities and more.’

Joao Breda, Head, WHO European Office for Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases

The scope of the assessment is wide-ranging, with ten policy and programme indicators, including national leadership, Baby Friendly hospital and community practices, marketing controls on breastmilk substitutes, health professional training, emergency preparedness and monitoring. There are also five feeding practices indicators, such as exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, a WHO recommendation. 

The original assessments were all carried out using the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi), a tool first developed in 2004 by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) but only launched in Europe in 2015. It requires collaboration with relevant organisations within a country on assessment scores, gaps identified and recommendations for improvements. The Report highlights good practice, enabling countries to learn from one another.

     ˝Success …rests first and foremost on achieving political commitment at the highest level and assembling the indispensable human and financial resources.’

WHO Global Strategy 2003

If governments, other policymakers, hospitals and community services, public health departments, institutions that train health professionals, and others, adopt the report recommendations, it will enable more mothers to initiate and continue breastfeeding, strengthening the health of the population for the future.

The WBTi European Working Group, led by Dr. Irena Zakarija-Grkovic of Croatia, produced the Report and comprises coordinators from European countries which have carried out a WBTi assessment. The production of the report was supported by the Croatian Ministry of Health and UNICEF Croatia.

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UK media contact: wbti@ukbreastfeeding.org

Doctors and breastfeeding 2: Resource list

Doctors and breastfeeding 2: Resource list

World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK (WBTi)

Uses the WBTi Assessment Tool to score a country’s support for breastfeeding according to 10 key indicators based on evidence-based strategies in the 2003 WHO Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding: 

So far, 97 countries have produced a WBTi report: https://www.worldbreastfeedingtrends.org/

2016 WBTi Report on the UK : see Indicator 5 for health professional training, with the main summary table in Part 1 and details for individual professions in Part 2.

e-book by Patricia Wise of WBTi UK: free downloadable PDF, Supporting mothers who breastfeed: A guide for trainee and qualified doctors

Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG)

Working to protect all babies by strengthening UK laws on infant feeding in line with UN recommendations

Publications include: Comfort milks, lactose-free infant milks and anti-reflux milks: Why these products should be removed from shop, supermarket and pharmacy shelves

Breastfeeding Network

* Breastfeeding Network Drugs in Breastmilk Information

* Drug fact sheets: https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/drugs-factsheets/

 New e-learning module Supporting breastfeeding mothers with thrush £30: www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/product-category/training/

e-learning for Healthcare

e-LfH programmes: https://www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/

Programmes include: Breastmilk Provision for Preterm and Sick Neonates,

Infant Feeding: supporting education around the implementation of Baby Friendly standards in infant feeding

First Steps Nutrition

Public health nutrition charity providing independent information and resources to support eating well from preconception to five years old: 

Information on infant milks for health workers

booklets available as free PDFs include: Infant milks in the UK: A practical guide for health professionals: 

*GP Infant Feeding Network (GPIFN)

The website is a clinical resource for GPs.

GP Education

Maternal mental health

 GPIFN Resources

iMAP (International Milk Allergy in Primary Care Guideline 2019)

Hospital Infant Feeding Network (HIFN)

The website provides information on supporting breastfeeding in a hospital setting, and there is also a network with a Facebook page.

HIFN posters on various aspects of caring for breastfeeding women in hospital

* Don’t stay stop look it up campaign on prescribing for breastfeeding women

Human Milk Foundation

Working to help more families feed their babies with human milk

Hearts Milk Bank: Redefining the boundaries of human milk donation

Lactation consultants of Great Britain (LCGB)

Professional association for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs)

The crucial role of breastfeeding: supporting mothers with anxiety and depression Handout

Breastfeeding: a vital part of the first 1001 Critical Days. Briefing on the impact of breastfeeding on brain development and infant mental health.

Parenting Science Gang

A user-led citizen Science project

Breastfeeding and Health Care Experiences project

Personal Breastfeeding Experience of Health Professionals and Professional Practice

Royal Colleges

Royal College of GPs (RCGP):  Breastfeeding Position Statement and link to online resource on breastfeeding

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH):  Breastfeeding position statement

* UKDILAS: UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service

Enquiry-answering service, fact sheets and database on drug prescribing during breastfeeding

Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative

Working with public services to support families better with infant feeding and developing close loving relationships through training and accreditation

e-learning packages for GPs and paediatricians

Resources list

Recommended learning outcomes for different specialisms of healthcare practitioners

Include learning outcomes for medical students

Other resources

Facebook group: Breastfeeding for Doctors Peer Support

* ed. Amy Brown and Wendy Jones (2020) A guide to supporting breastfeeding for the medical profession Routledge

* Wendy Jones (2018) Breastfeeding and Medication Routledge 2nd edition

Key: * relevant to prescribing

WBTi UK Doctors and breastfeeding project 2020

Vision: That all doctors have sufficient training in infant feeding to protect the decisions of mothers who want to breastfeed.

Doctors and breastfeeding: 1

Doctors and breastfeeding: 1

Doctors have an important role to play in supporting mothers who want to breastfeed.

A continuing theme of the WBTi UK work is improving medical training in infant feeding such that all, not just some, doctors have sufficient knowledge and understanding of breastfeeding to protect the decisions of mothers who want to breastfeed. Enabling more mothers to continue breastfeeding would improve infant and maternal health, reduce NHS costs (Renfrew et al) and reduce the number of GP appointments (Pokhrel et al, 2015).

Supporting Mothers Who Breastfeed, by Patricia Wise.
E-book downloadable from the WBTI website

On 16 January WBTi UK held an evening event at the Burfoot Court room at Guy’s Hospital on this topic to celebrate the third anniversary of the launch of our report. The event was well-attended with a mixture of doctors, breastfeeding supporters and other professionals. There were several presentations and a display of relevant resources. Bringing the resources together made it obvious that actually there are plenty available. For example, there are the Baby Friendly learning outcomes for different professions, my free book Supporting Mothers Who Breastfeed: A Guide for Trainee and Qualified Doctors, on the WBTi website, particularly aimed at medical trainees, and the e-learning for Healthcare modules for educating and training the health and social care workforce. There is a great deal of information on the GP Infant Feeding Network (GPIFN) and Hospital Infant Feeding Network (HIFN) websites and the new book edited by Amy Brown and Wendy Jones, A guide to supporting breastfeeding for the medical professionwith chapters by different specialists, is practical and comprehensive; all royalties from sales of their book will go to the Human Milk Foundation. Sources of information on prescribing include the UKDILAS website (UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service) and the Breastfeeding Network website information and Breastmilk Information Service. 

To access the full list of resources see our next blog.

In the first presentation at the event, Clare Meynell and Helen Gray briefly explained a WBTi assessment and some of the report findings, but also mentioned progress made in the past 3 years. This includes the requirement in the NHS Long-Term Plan for all maternity services to achieve Baby Friendly status, and local Maternity systems in England asked to produce a breastfeeding strategy as part of the implementation of Better Births and the National Maternity Transformation Programme (which are now aligned)

Georgie BHS and Dani Phillipson from the Parenting Science Gang

Georgie BHS and Dani Phillipson from the Parenting Science Gang, which runs citizens’ science projects using mothers to collect evidence, spoke next. They described the breastfeeding and healthcare experiences project (inspired in part by the WBTi findings on health professional training) with its subsidiary small project of 8 interviews looking at healthcare professionals’ own experiences of breastfeeding on their professional practice. From the themes identified, PSG has produced MILK cards to guide health professionals:

  • Mothers’ voices matter
  • Investigate common issues, but also
  • Look for underlying causes§
  • Know where to find information

GP Dr. Terri Lovis (seen in banner photo above) described how the GP Infant Feeding Network (GPIFN), initiated by Dr. Louise Santhanam, was set up as a pharma free network to improve the quality of support in infant feeding with the work provided voluntarily. The website is a comprehensive educational resource for primary care and there is partnership with the Hospital Infant Feeding Network (HIFN). Additional achievements include working collaboratively with IMAP (International Milk Allergy in Primary Care Guidelines) to produce the 2019 version and bidding successfully with PHE and Surrey Heartlands to train Infant Feeding champions across Surrey (as Norwich already does).

Dr Natalie Shenker from the Human Milk Foundation

The fascinating keynote presentation was by Dr. Natalie Shenker on Doctors and Breastmilk, and included the initiation of the Human Milk Foundation in 2017 and the work of the Hearts Milk Bank, which she co-founded with Gillian Weaver. The Milk Bank is involved in research as well as providing pasteurised donor milk.

The challenge is how to enable all medical students, trainees and qualified doctors to acquire an adequate minimum standard in infant feeding knowledge and skills. Yes, there is a huge amount that they need to know in total but being breastfed as an infant can make such a difference to the health of baby and mother (not to mention the environmental sustainability of breastfeeding!) that it is crucial to include. Some examples of what is already being done to help achieve this:

  • Imperial College Medical School is running a programme in which medical students are allocated to follow a mother from the end of pregnancy until the child is 3 years old.
  • Norwich CCG has a GP Champion in Infant Feeding scheme, which Surrey Heartlands is also rolling out, in which the champion receives training and disseminates the learning throughout the practice.

Imagine if all medical schools ran such a programme and all GP practices had a breastfeeding champion!

Banner photo: Dr. Terri Lovis

Patricia Wise is the author of ‘Supporting Mothers Who Breastfeed: A Guide for Trainee and Qualified Doctors’. She is an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor and tutor, and a member of the WBTi UK Steering Group

We want the new government to invest in the health of women and children by supporting and protecting breastfeeding.

The WBTi UK team are proud to be part of producing this joint statement calling for our next government to make breastfeeding a priority in setting the agenda to prioritise the early years of life.

Download the PDF HERE

The new government needs to prioritise the first 1001 days of a child’s life, from conception to age two, to enable children to survive and thrive. How an infant is fed and nurtured strongly influences a child’s future life chances and emotional health. Importantly, if a woman breastfeeds there are substantial health benefits for her – having impacts onher future long after breastfeeding has stopped.

Independent, practical, evidence-based information and support is essential for every family.  Supporting women with breastfeeding can go a long way to protecting children and mothers from a wide range of preventable ill health, including obesity and mental health problems.

This window of opportunity cannot be missed for the future health outcomes of mothers and the next generation. In addition to well documented health outcomes, supporting breastfeeding will also contribute to a stronger economy – potential annual savings to the NHS are estimated at about £40 million per year from just a moderate increase in breastfeeding rates.

Support for breastfeeding is also an environmental imperative and recognition of the contribution breastfeeding can make to avoiding environmental degradation should be a matter of increasing global and political attention.

In the UK, the majority of women start to breastfeed but breastfeeding rates drop rapidly – our continuation rates are some of the lowest in the world and are even lower amongst women living in deprived areas, where increasing rates could make a real difference to health inequalities. Support for all women, parents and families with breastfeeding falls short of what is wanted and needed. 

Women tell us they encounter difficulties with the public perceptions of breastfeeding out of the home. Families tell us they are still regularly exposed to conflicting messaging and marketing for formula milks that drowns out advice from healthcare professionals.

Women tell us they receive little to no help with infant feeding and that their health visitors, midwives and doctors often have little training or knowledge about breastfeeding and limited time to support them.

Recent cuts in health visitor numbers and breastfeeding peer support services mean many women may be left without the support they need however they choose to feed their infants. 

Despite robust evidence showing that investment in breastfeeding support and protection makes sense, politically breastfeeding has been viewed by governments as a lifestyle choice and so left to parents to work out for themselves. For too many women, trying to breastfeed without support, or stopping before they want to, is deeply upsetting and the situation is made worse by fragmented care, and poor and often conflicting advice from those they are seeking to support them. To ensure an increase in breastfeeding rates, to help reverse obesity rates and to reduce widening health inequalities will require significant investment in breastfeeding. 

It is essential that our new government prioritises breastfeeding and invests in its support and protection.

We call on all political parties to commit to the following actions, if elected:

  • To appoint a permanent, multi-sectoral infant and young child feeding strategy group and develop, fund and implement a national strategy to improve infant and young child feeding practices
  • To include actions to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in all policy areas where breastfeeding has an impact.
  • To implement the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative across community and paediatric services, building on the recommendation for maternity services in the NHS Long Term Plan.
  • To protect babies from harmful commercial interests by bringing the full International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes into UK law and enforcing this law.
  • To commission, and sustainably fund, universal breastfeeding support programmes delivered by specialist/lead midwives and health visitors or suitably qualified breastfeeding specialists, such as IBCLC lactation consultants and breastfeeding counsellors, alongside trained peer supporters with accredited qualifications.
  • To maintain and expand universal, accessible, affordable and confidential breastfeeding support through the National Breastfeeding Helpline and sustaining the Drugs in Breastmilk Service.
  • To deliver universal health visiting services and the Healthy Child Programme by linking in with local specialist and support services.
  • To establish/re-establish universal Children’s Centres with a focus on areas of deprivation, offering breastfeeding peer support.
  • To make it a statutory right of working mothers and those in education to work flexibly as required and to access a private space and paid breaks to breastfeed and/or express breastmilk and manage its safe storage.
  • To commit to resourcing for charitable organisations who play a key role within the health agenda working at a national and local level to support families and communities with infant feeding.
  • To support the commitment to undertake an Infant Feeding Survey which builds on the data previously collected in the Infant Feeding Survey 2010 (now discontinued). 
  • To implement the recommendations of the Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF) study.

CASE FOR ACTION

  1. Breastfeeding benefits all babies, and studies have shown that just a small increase in breastfeeding rates could cut NHS expenditure considerably.  It is vital to invest in breastfeeding support in the early months and this will reap rewards in the future that are likely to exceed the initial cash flows associated with putting proper support in place.
  2. UNICEF report states that “no other health behaviour has such a broad-spectrum and long-lasting impact on public health. The good foundations and strong emotional bonds provided in the early postnatal period and through breastfeeding can affect a child’s subsequent life chances”. 
  3. Evidence has also demonstrated that a child from a low-income background who is breastfed is likely to have better health outcomes than a child from a more affluent background who is formula-fed. Breastfeeding provides one solution to the long-standing problem of health inequality.
  4. Research into the extent of the burden of disease associated with low breastfeeding rates is hampered by data collection methods. This can be addressed by investment in good quality research.

References

1. Laurence M. Grummer‐Strawn Nigel Rollins, (2015), Impact of Breastfeeding on Maternal and Child Health. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/16512227/2015/104/S467

2. Borra C, Iacovou M, Sevilla A (2015) Maternal Child Health Journal  (4): 897-907. New evidence on breastfeeding and postpartum depression: the importance of understanding women’s intentions

3. Brown, A, Rance J, Bennett, P (2015) Understanding the relationship between breastfeeding and postnatal depression: the role of pain and physical difficulties.  Journal of Advanced Nursing 72 (2): 273-282

4. https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/News-and-events/news/Breastfeeding-for-longer-could-save-the-NHS-40-million-a-year

5. Li R, Fein SB, Chen J, Grummer-Strawn LM, (2008) Why mothers stop breastfeeding: mothers’ self-reported reasons for stopping during the first year.  Pediatrics 122: S60-S76

6. Support for breastfeeding is an environmental imperative. (2019) BMJ 2019;367:l5646 https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l5646

7. McAndrew F et al (2012) Infant Feeding Survey 2010

8. NHS (2019) NHS Long term Plan https://www.longtermplan.nhs.uk/

9. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2013) Postnatal Guideline NICE, London https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg37

10. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2012) Improved access to peer support   NICE, London

11. Rollins N, Bhandari N, Hajeebhoy N, et al (2016) Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices?  The Lancet 387 491-504

12. Wilson AC, Forsyth JS, Greene SA, Irvine L, Hau C, Howie PW. 1998 Relation of infant diet to childhood health: seven year follow up of cohort of children in Dundee infant feeding study. BMJ. Jan 3;316(7124):21-5.

13. Brown, A, Finch, G, Trickey, H, Hopkins, R (2019) ‘A Lifeline when no one else wants to give you an answer’ – An Evaluation of the BFN’s drugs in breastmilk service. https://breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/wp-content/pdfs/BfN%20Final%20report%20.pdf       

New e-book on breastfeeding for doctors and trainees

New e-book on breastfeeding for doctors and trainees

Background

Doctors have an important role to play in supporting mothers who are breastfeeding, through providing encouragement, accurate information and signposting to sources of specialist and peer support. Their impact can be significant because doctors and their advice are held in such high regard, and this is particularly important in the UK, where a mother’s intention to breastfeed can so easily be undermined.

There are doctors who have made themselves really knowledgeable but sadly the UK universal standards for pre-registration medical training in breastfeeding have significant gaps, as shown by Indicator 5 of the WBTi 2016 report (see Part 1 for the summary table below, and Part 2 for the details of standards for different health professions)

Curriculum developments

However, there have been some positive changes since the publication of the WBTi UK report.

Paediatrician training

Level 2 of the RCPCH general curriculum for paediatricians (section Capabilities in Health Promotion and Illness Prevention) has been revised and lists more breastfeeding topics (https://www.rcpch.ac.uk/sites/default/files/2018-03/rcpch_progress_curriculum_level_2_generic_syllabus_for_use_from_1_aug_2018.pdf).

GP training

GP training has also been revised by the RCGP with more mentions of breastfeeding/ infant feeding in the topic guides on Children and Young People and Maternity and Reproductive Health (https://www.rcgp.org.uk/-/media/Files/GP-training-and-exams/Curriculum-2019/Curriculum-Topic-Guides-300819.ashx?la=en).

The WBTi UK team contributed to both curriculum consultations.

GP Infant Feeding Network and Hospital Infant Feeding Network

Dr. Louise Santhanam founded the GP Infant Feeding Network (GPIFN) in 2016 and in 2019 Drs Vicky Thomas and Ilana Levene launched the Hospital Infant Feeding Network (HIFN), which are valuable resources for medical professionals. See our series of three guest blogs from HIFN: Launch of HIFN, #DontStopLookItUp campaign on prescribing for breastfeeding women, and free posters on breastfeeding issues in the hospital setting.

New learning outcomes published by Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative

Doctors have a long training so there needs to be input at different stages of training and also encouragement for already qualified doctors to update. A group looking at this was initiated by the WBTi team and went on to be led by Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative, and chaired by paediatrician Charlotte Wright. Unicef UK Baby Friendly launched the resulting infant feeding learning outcomes in World Breastfeeding Week, with accompanying resources expected to follow soon (see our August 2019 blog). These are intended as a guide for training for various health professions from undergraduate courses through to the point of qualification.

New online book for trainee doctors

My book, Supporting mothers who breastfeed: a guide for trainee and qualified doctors, is primarily for trainee doctors but relevant to qualified doctors too. At the trainee stage they have specialised and are working clinically. The book provides a combination of factual knowledge about breastfeeding and an insight into mothers’ experiences. It includes some examples of good practice in responding to common situations and ends with a short quiz. It is available on the WBTi website (https://ukbreastfeeding.org/supporting-mothers-who-breastfeed-a-guide-for-trainee-and-qualified-doctors/) as a free PDF. Being electronic, it is easy to click on links to be taken to references and sources of further information, and can be updated more readily than a paper book. 

I am very grateful to Charlotte Wright, who is Professor of Community Child Health at the University of Glasgow and a consultant paediatrician, for writing the foreword.

If you know any trainees or qualified doctors, perhaps you would pass the weblink to them.

You can sign up to our mailing list HERE

You can also sign up to follow our blog, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter at @wbtiUK

Patricia Wise is an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor and tutor, and a member of the WBTi UK Steering Group

Launch of learning outcomes for health workers

Launch of learning outcomes for health workers

At the start of World Breastfeeding Week, Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative launched a new set of resources: recommended learning outcomes for several health professional groups.

New Unicef Baby Friendly learning outcomes for health professional training

It had been announced at the Baby Friendly conference in 2018 that learning outcomes and resources were being produced.

Addressing gaps

WBTi UK Indicator 5: Health professional training

The WBTi report in 2016 (see Indicator 5 in Part 1 of the WBTi UK report for the above table, and Indicator 5 in Part 2 for the detailed findings for each UK health profession) showed that for most health professions in the UK, the coverage of infant feeding in pre-registration training was inadequate. In some case only broad standards are given and the individual universities develop their own curricula.

The infant feeding learning outcomes launched by BFI are for a range of newly qualified health professionals so they ‘articulate the minimum knowledge and understanding of infant feeding that it would be reasonable to expect from a health practitioner at the point of qualification’. There are slightly different ones for the following five groups:

  • doctors
  • dietitians
  • pharmacists
  • children’s nurses
  • maternity support workers/nursery nurses.

For each of these professional groups the learning outcomes are grouped into three broad themes:

  1. The value of human milk and breastfeeding.
  2. Supporting infant feeding.
  3. Infant feeding in context, which includes understanding the importance of the International Code. 

They are intended as ‘a stimulus to universities and others to start to consider what should be covered in relevant curricula and training, and then to take action to make that a reality.’ 

One useful recommendation is that ‘A mapping exercise can help the university to assess how far the topics are already covered and assessed in the curriculum, and to identify and plan for any additions to modules or design alternations needed.’ Plans for the resources ‘include a slide pack to help lecturers deliver the content to students, e-learning for students and assessment examples’. 

Specific learning outcomes like these, provided they are taken on board by the training institutions, will surely help to achieve a higher and consistent level of knowledge and skills within and between health professions.

Cover photo licensed by Adobe Stock

Patricia Wise is an NCT breastfeeding counsellor and a member of the WBTi Steering Group.

Breastfeeding and medication: training for pharmacists and counter staff

Breastfeeding and medication: training for pharmacists and counter staff

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.

For details of gaps in health professional training, see “Indicator 5” in Part 1 of the WBTi Report for the summary table above and in Part 2 for the detailed findings on each health profession.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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)
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

and I will send detailed information to mothers and professionals.

 Dr Wendy Jones  MBE

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. 

Hospital Breastfeeding 3: Posters from HIFN

Hospital Breastfeeding 3: Posters from HIFN

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.

For details of gaps in health professional training, see “Indicator 5” in Part 1 of the WBTi Report for the summary table above and in Part 2 for the detailed findings on each health profession.

Following on from previous blogs about the launch of the Hospital Infant Feeding Network website and the “Don’t Say Stop Look it Up” campaign, today’s blog looks at another set of resources provided by the Hospital Infant Feeding Network.

As a reminder, the Hospital Infant Feeding Network is a place for hospital health professionals to find out more about facilitating and supporting breastfeeding in a hospital setting. It provides a highly referenced, practical website on relevant topics, and a closed Facebook group for discussion and sharing best practice. For National Breastfeeding Celebration weeks in June, HIFN produced a set of A3 posters aimed at hospital staff in different settings to summarise useful, evidence-based information. These can be downloaded here.

The first two posters look at the reasons for health professionals to support breastfeeding, in term babies and in the neonatal unit setting. Families who are finding breastfeeding difficult are unlikely to find this type of messaging useful so it is important that these are placed to be staff-facing only.

The next three posters look at what is normal, common breastfeeding problems and the non-nutritional aspects of breastfeeding:

The final poster is designed for hospital settings where lactating women might be seen or admitted:

More information about all of these topics is available on the HIFN website.

 Ilana Levene is a paediatric doctor planning to sub-specialise in neonatal medicine and interested in research relating to neonatal nutrition. She lives in Oxford with her husband, an environmental consultant, and two children. She is a trustee of Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support, a local grassroots network of free weekly breastfeeding drop-ins and online support. She likes cross-stitching and making patchwork quilts.

Don’t Say Stop Look it Up – A New Breastfeeding Campaign for HCPs (HIFN): 2

Don’t Say Stop Look it Up – A New Breastfeeding Campaign for HCPs (HIFN): 2

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.

For details of gaps in health professional training, see “Indicator 5” in Part 1 of the WBTi Report for the summary table above and in Part 2 for the detailed findings on each health profession.

Following on from yesterday’s blog about the launch of the Hospital Infant Feeding Network website, today we are looking in more detail at the joint GPIFN, Breastfeeding Network and HIFN campaign “Don’t Say Stop Look It Up”.

DontStopLookItUp

This campaign, started by the GP Infant Feeding Network in 2017, aims to make sure healthcare professionals know how to check whether specific medicines can be taken by breastfeeding women. Most healthcare professionals know that with regard to breastfeeding and medication they should check what the British National Formulary (BNF) says. The BNF is a phenomenal resource, respected around the world, with comprehensive information about medication doses, side effects and cautions. However, in some cases it takes a very cautious line on breastfeeding – for example, for the antidepressant sertraline, recommended by specialist services as a preferred option in breastfeeding, the BNF says “not known to be harmful but consider discontinuing breastfeeding”. For ibuprofen, accepted by specialist services as appropriate during lactation, the BNF says “use with caution during breastfeeding. Amount too small to be harmful but some manufacturers advise avoid”. It isn’t hard to see that well-meaning healthcare professionals are nervous about recommending medicines for breastfeeding women when seeing these descriptions in a trusted source of information, and why they may advise that breastfeeding should be stopped, or that the medication cannot be taken.

The #Don’tSayStopLookItUp campaign seeks to highlight the position of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), which states “Ensure health professionals who prescribe drugs to a breastfeeding mother… seek guidance from the UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service… the ‘British National Formulary’ should only be used as a guide as it does not contain quantitative data on which to base individual decisions… Health professionals should recognise that there may be adverse health consequences for both mother and baby if the mother does not breastfeed. They should also recognise that it may not be easy for the mother to stop breastfeeding abruptly – and that it is difficult to reverse”. The campaign poster set can be downloaded, and covers common classes of drugs such as antibiotics, antidepressants, painkillers and anaesthetics. The rest of the blog will cover in more detail how health professionals can effectively use the UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory Service (UKDILAS).

UKDILAS is an NHS service specifically set up to help health professionals make informed decisions about the use of medicines during breastfeeding. It is provided by a team of highly specialised pharmacists. The website is not the easiest one to navigate so we’ll go through the three particularly useful services they provide, step by step.

Using UKDILAS

Firstly, UKDILAS provides thorough lactation-specific information on individual medications. When a health professional wants to check a single medication, where they would normally look it up in the BNF, they can go to www.sps.nhs.uk (or Google UKDILAS) and use the search box at the top of the page:

Searching for codeine, for example, will bring up first the individual drug name and any lactation (and other specialist service) factsheets as well:

Clicking on the individual drug name codeine brings the reader to a long list of articles and other specialist information so the last step is to click on the “Lactation Safety Information” link under the medication name to go straight to the relevant section.

In this case, the final result is “Use when breastfeeding – No” with useful comments about how much data this is based on and what effects are seen. This will also link you through to any other relevant lactation safety information held about this medicine:

The other two UKDILAS services are the factsheets and the ability to ask specific questions. Question & Answer factsheets are available via a link from the UKDILAS part of the SPS website (www.sps.nhs.uk/ukdilas) and cover general topics like “which oral antihistamines are safe to use while breastfeeding?”. There are also general “safety in lactation” articles covering specific classes of medication – these will come up when you search for an individual medication, as shown above with codeine, which is an opioid analgesic.

To ask UKDILAS a specific question, health professionals can telephone (9am-5pm Mon to Fri) or email – full details are on the website. The team will answer any breastfeeding and medicine-related question, but particularly specialise in highly complex areas such as multiple medications and premature infants.

Other sources of information on drugs in breastmilk

As lactation professionals know, there are many other ways to access information about medications in lactation – for example the wonderful Drug Factsheets put together by Wendy Jones at the Breastfeeding Network, American national resource LactMed and textbooks such as Medications and Mothers’ Milk (Hale). This blog has focused on UKDILAS because it is an NHS source, which is reassuring to busy UK health professionals who may not have time to check the credentials of other sources.

So, in summary, health professionals naturally use the BNF to check information about lactation, but by using the Don’t Say Stop Look It Up campaign, we can help them find out about specialist sources of information to help families make informed decisions.

 Ilana Levene is a paediatric doctor planning to sub-specialise in neonatal medicine and interested in research relating to neonatal nutrition. She lives in Oxford with her husband, an environmental consultant, and two children. She is a trustee of Oxfordshire Breastfeeding Support, a local grassroots network of free weekly breastfeeding drop-ins and online support. She likes cross-stitching and making patchwork quilts.