Infant Feeding in Emergencies – Resources

Infant Feeding in Emergencies – Resources

Our WBTi work has revealed that in the UK we have no national guidance on the support and feeding of infants and young children, or pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, during emergencies. There is currently a postcode lottery of Local Resilience Forums who include a few details in their advice to the public such as “Remember to pack formula and nappies for your baby”, but there is no national guidance for LRFs and local authorities that they should include infants and young children in their planning.

This page will serve as a repository for resources for those planning services and those providing feeding support for families in crisis in the UK.

Currently there are many gaps in the support for families who have been evacuated from Afghanistan, so resources in Afghan languages are collected here.

Please send us any suggestions for additional resources

We have a few other resources not included here, including Rapid Assessment Tools and Simple Phrases about feeding, and a Peer Counsellor Training Curriculum in Dari; please email us any enquiries.

CONTACT: wbti@ukbreastfeeding.org

NOTE: We are providing these resources as a public service, but we cannot read the resources in other languages ourselves, so we cannot always vouch for the accuracy of the contents. Please have someone fluent in the language read it for you.

UNICEF UK Baby Friendly resources

Guidance on infant feeding during COVID19 (from BFI, First Steps Nutrition Trust, and NIFN)

First line guidance for local authorities responsible for supporting families

The provision of formula in food banks (November 2020)

Statement on infant formula in food banks (November 2020) – signposting

See also the response to Question 11 on formula donations and distribution in their FAQ here

International humanitarian guidelines and operational guidance

Sphere Handbook

Operational Guidance on Infant feeding in Emergencies
Operational Guidance for Emergency Relief Staff and Programme Managers
Available in numerous languages

Guides on writing/ talking about infant feeding in emergencies and Media Guide
These are extremely useful in framing the situation

Infant feeding resources – multiple languages

Rapid Assessment tools in various languages – contact wbti@ukbreastfeeding.org

Infant Feeding Counselling resources
Pictorial counselling cards in many languages, adapted to include COVID19 recomendations

Infant Feeding flyer for families in transit (English, Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish)

Developed by the volunteer team from Infant Feeding Support for Refugee Children/ Safely Fed

Email us for more languages

Pictorial book about breastfeeding (no words) from La Leche League Netherlands

The PDF is free to use for all. Printing and sharing is allowed, as long as the original file (including credits) is unaltered. Price listed on website is for printed version.

Breastfeeding resources in multiple languages (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, USA)

Infant Feeding in Emergencies Social Media resources:

Support for Refugee Children Facebook Page
Memes/ graphics in multiple languages, with appropriate captions

Safely Fed UK Facebook page – volunteers welcome to create graphics in Canva and to monitor the page! Contact WBTi UK: wbti@ukbreastfeeding.org

Resources in Afghan languages: Dari and Farsi

Background information on breastfeeding in Afghanistan: WBTi 2019 report on Afghanistan

Pictorial counselling cards for Afghanistan, in Dari

Infant Feeding flyer for families in transit: versions in Farsi and English

Developed by the volunteer team from Infant Feeding Support for Refugee Children/ Safely Fed

Breastfeeding Confidence booklet by the Australian Breastfeeding Association, in Dari

Video from UNICEF in Dari

Breastfeeding Matters – An Important Guide to Breastfeeding for Women and their Families (from best Start, Ontario Canada) can be downloaded free in Farsi

Breastfeeding information in Farsi and other languages (Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, USA)

Please do contact us if you are interested in volunteering or have some useful resources to share!!

CONTACT: wbti@ukbreastfeeding.org

#WBW2021 Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility – Communities

#WBW2021 Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility – Communities

‘Creating breastfeeding Communities’.

The Harrow Example.

How can communities change to give parents consistent support with breastfeeding?

Our Harrow model of integrated working across hospital and community services showed that when professionals, lay supporters and specialists worked effectively together under a shared strategy and infant feeding policy, that more parents felt supported to breastfeed their babies.   Over two years higher breastfeeding initiation, continuation and exclusivity rates were beginning to be reported.   Parents found that they experienced less conflicting advice and breastfeeding gradually began to be seen as the normal way to feed babies in Harrow.

This was achieved through joint training sessions involving community and hospital staff.  Midwives, midwifery managers, paediatricians, neonatal nurses, paediatric nurses, A&E nurses, health visitors, peer supporters and breastfeeding counsellors all attended the same sessions.  Through these, they were able to understand each other’s roles and responsibilities and plan care together.  

Peer supporters helped to run daily community drop-in groups with health visitors, and some worked in the antenatal clinic and postnatal wards of the hospital.   Specialist, targeted peer support was offered to teenage parents, those with multiples and Somali mothers.  A copy of Best Beginning’s ‘Bump to Breastfeeding’ DVD was given to all antenatal parents, who were also invited to a popular Saturday morning breastfeeding workshop.

Over a period of ten years, mothers felt comfortable breastfeeding their babies all over the borough and became visible in shopping centres, cafes, supermarkets, parks, and school grounds.  

The National Maternity Review reported in 2016:

‘In Harrow, a multi-ethnic London borough with high infant mortality rates, and areas of deprivation and poverty, the Director of Public Health identified breastfeeding as a top priority for 2006. A multi-professional approach was adopted with Harrow Community Health Services working with the local hospital to improve breastfeeding rates. UNICEF Baby Friendly training was commissioned for midwives, health visitors and support staff in 2007. A peer support training programme began and mothers were recruited from a local support group. A network of breastfeeding support groups was established running from children’s centres, eventually achieving one every day within walking distance for all mothers. In 2008, Bump to Breastfeeding DVDs were given to every pregnant woman by midwives, health visitors and peer supporters. Harrow became accredited as Baby Friendly in 2012 and the local hospital gained the award in 2013. The staff training, peer support programme and free DVDs increased breastfeeding rates, so by 2010 initiation rates had risen to 82% and 6-8 weeks to 73%. By 2013, Harrow had 87% of mothers initiating and 75% breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks (50% exclusively), with one of the lowest drop-off rates in the UK. UNICEF assessed Harrow for its re-accreditation in 2014 and stated that it was the only local authority in the UK where breastfeeding was the ‘normal’ way to feed babies’.[1]

Other examples of Integrated community breastfeeding support:

https://www.wearebesideyou.co.uk/Swindon

Harrow was featured in the UK WBTi report in 2016, as an example of good practice

Email us at wbti@ukbreastfeeding.org

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Dr Alison Spiro -Specialist health visitor (rtd) is a member of the WBTi UK Steering Group.


[1] ‘national-maternity-review-report.pdf’ (2016). Available at: https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/national-maternity-review-report.pdf

#WBW2021 Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility – Peer Support

#WBW2021  Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility – Peer Support

A network of trained peer support is an essential part of high quality integrated breastfeeding services.

Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) outlines three components that good local breastfeeding services must include, in order to be awarded Baby Friendly accredited status.

Basic, or Routine Care

All health workers who work with new families (health visitors and any allied healthcare assistants in the community services) have been trained to BFI standard (approximately 18 hours of initial in service training, with yearly updates of an hour or more).

Additional services

Here BFI outlines how every health visiting and community service must be embedded in and well supported by a network of trained peer supporters, or other social and trained breastfeeding support. NICE recommends that peer support programmes be externally accredited. Good practice includes not only training, but also regular supervision and updates of skills and knowledge. Typical peer support programmes require peer supporters to be experienced breastfeeding mothers, and often expects them to come from similar communities as the population they are supporting. Training generally is part time, over 16-36 hours. Peer supporters work in a supervised setting, acting as an “informed friend,” and referring complex cases on to health professionals or an advanced breastfeeding practitioner such as an IBCLC or breastfeeding counsellor, using a referral pathway.

Breastfeeding counsellors in the UK are also experienced breastfeeding mothers, so they also provide a type of peer support, or “mother-to-mother” support. Their training typically take around two years, and they are autonomous practitioners, who can be responsible for leading their own local breastfeeding support groups, usually through one of the main UK breastfeeding voluntary organisations.

Mothers who are experiencing breastfeeding challenges often need more than one visit – and they need the time that it requires for skilled listening as well as exploration of possible breastfeeding strategies to resolve the issue. Although many health visitors have additional breastfeeding training and skills, the health visitor workforce is vastly overstretched, and it simply isn’t possible to provide the time and the number of visits that many breastfeeding mothers need.

But peer support programmes can provide this – they offer groups where lonely mothers can meet others and gain confidence in their own mothering, alongside skilled listening and well- informed support. Many mothers will find their own “village” in their local breastfeeding support group, and will return again and again. Some will go on to train as peer supporters or breastfeeding counsellors themselves.

Peer support groups are the beating heart of breastfeeding support

Helen Gray, WBTi Joint Coordinator
WBTi audit of peer support and breastfeeding counsellors provided by the voluntary sector, 2016
In Part 2 of our WBTi UK Report

Specialist support

Every area should have a referral pathway to specialist care at the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or similar level, for those complex cases where breastfeeding issues cannot be resolved at the level of basic/ routine care or by additional peer support.

The different roles of breastfeeding support in the UK have been outlined in the chart below:

Who’s Who in Breastfeeding Support and Lactation in the UK, from Lactation Consultants of Great Britain

WBTi’s research: Case studies of best practice
The WBTi 2016 Report featured several case studies of areas who showed best practice in providing well joined up, integrated breastfeeding services: Brighton and Harrow.

Case studies of two breastfeeding services providing integrated support, 2016.
In Part 2 of our WBTi UK Report

More recently, our WBTi team has presented posters featuring these and additional case studies of best practices in providing integrated breastfeeding services: Medway, Harrow and Swindon.

WBTi Poster on Integrated Breastfeeding Services.

These examples of best practice in integrated breastfeeding services gave concrete results.

They demonstrated:

– a 2% rise in breastfeeding rates in a socially deprived area in 2018 (Medway),

– a 15% rise in initiation and a 12% rise in continuation of breastfeeding over a six year period (Harrow)

– and a 6% reduction in drop off rates from birth to 6-8 weeks over six years (Swindon).

Our WBTi team are always on the lookout for further examples of best practice in integrated breastfeeding services, and we submit them to Public Health England. Please do contact us if you would like to submit your local services!

Email us at wbti@ukbreastfeeding.org

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Banner photo credit: Pixabay

Helen Gray MPhil IBCLC is Joint Coordinator of the World Breastfeeding Trends (WBTi) UK Working Group. She is also an accredited Leader (breastfeeding counsellor) with La Leche League of Great Britain.

#WBW2021 Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility – Fathers

#WBW2021  Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility – Fathers

For Day 2 of WBW we are very pleased to have a guest blog by Health Visitor and Clinical Research Fellow Dr. Sharin Baldwin.

Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants and its associated benefits to the infant, mother and the wider public health are well documented. Traditionally breastfeeding promotion and advice have been targeted at expectant and new mothers, with an aim to increasing breastfeeding rates in infants. In recent years it has been acknowledged that partners play an important role in supporting women’s decision to breastfeed, while also providing practical and emotional support with the continuation of breastfeeding. Research highlights the important role of fathers in promoting and supporting their partners with breastfeeding (Tohotoa et al., 2011; Datta et al., 2012; Sherriff et al., 2014; Hansen et al., 2018), but in practice fathers continue to report inadequate levels of information and support from health professionals. Training for health professionals therefore should consider men’s needs relating to breastfeeding promotion and support, as well as women’s.

New fathers have often reported finding their partner’s breastfeeding experiences to be much more difficult than they had originally anticipated, with many not knowing how to help or support their partner with breastfeeding when they experienced difficulties (Baldwin et al, 2018; 2019). This is where health professionals can really make a difference. They can help educate and prepare expectant fathers better during the antenatal period by providing them with ‘realistic’ information about the time it may take for their partner to establish breastfeeding. It is also important to highlight some of the breastfeeding challenges they may face in early parenthood and what strategies or support are available to overcome them. This will help men to develop more realistic expectations of the processes involved with establishing breastfeeding and make them feel more empowered to support their partner when faced with any difficulties.

While fathers may not be able to be directly breastfeed their babies, they need to know that they play a crucial role in making breastfeeding a success. They can provide practical support to their partners through helping with household duties, giving them a massage, allowing them to rest, making meals and drinks for them, and giving them emotional support through regular praise, reassurance and encouragement. Good levels of breastfeeding support are likely to make the process easier and more enjoyable, while giving women the confidence to continue breastfeeding for longer. Fathers’ involvement in breastfeeding not only has the potential to increase breastfeeding rates and duration, but also contribute to better outcomes for babies, mothers and the wider public health agenda. So, let’s not forget about including fathers when having those crucial discussions and training about breastfeeding!

World Health Organization

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References:

Baldwin, S., Malone, M., Sandall, J., Bick, D. (2018) Mental health and wellbeing during the transition to fatherhood: a systematic review of first-time fathers’ experiences. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation reports, 16(11):2118–91.

Baldwin, S., Malone, M., Sandall, J., Bick, D. (2019) A qualitative exploratory study of UK first-time fathers’ experiences, mental health and wellbeing needs during their transition to fatherhood. BMJ Open 2019;9:e030792. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2019-030792 https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/9/e030792.info

Datta, J., Graham, B., Wellings, K. (2012) The role of fathers in breastfeeding: decision-making and support. British Journal of Midwifery, 20(3):159–167.

Hansen, E., Tesch, L., Ayton, J. (2018) ‘They’re born to get breastfed’- how fathers view breastfeeding: a mixed method study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 18:238 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-018-1827-9

Sherriff, N., Hall, V., Panton, C. (2014) Engaging and supporting fathers to promote breast feeding: A concept analysis. Midwifery, 30: 667–677.

Tohotoa, J., Maycock, B., Hauck, Y.L., Howat, P., Burns, S., Binns, C.W. (2009) Dads make a difference: an exploratory study of paternal support for breastfeeding in Perth, Western Australia. International Breastfeeding Journal, 4: 15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1746-4358-4-15

Author:

Dr. Sharin Baldwin PhD, MSc, PG Dip, BSc (Hons), HV, RM, RN, QN, FiHV, IHV Research & PIMH Champion

NIHR Clinical Research Fellow, University of Warwick

Clinical Academic Lead (Nursing and Midwifery), London North West University Healthcare Trust

#WBW2021 Protect Breastfeeding: a Shared Responsibility – Health Professionals

#WBW2021  Protect Breastfeeding: a Shared Responsibility – Health Professionals

This is the start of World Breastfeeding Week, which runs from the 1st to the 7th August each year. Our focus this year for Day 1 is Health Professionals.

“It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a community to support mothers to breastfeed

Sue Ashmore, Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative

Sue Ashmore of the Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) wrote in 2017 ‘Just as the saying goes: ‘It takes a village to raise a child’, it takes a community to support mothers to breastfeed.’ (blog for the Huffington Post). That community includes health professionals but also breastfeeding specialists, such as IBCLCs and breastfeeding counsellors, and trained peer supporters.

Health professionals who have contact with mothers and their babies are a crucial part of that village of support. Since the WBTi report was pubished in 2016, an improvement has been the requirement of the NHS England Long-Term Plan (p.49) that all maternity units work towards achieving Baby Friendly accreditation. In comparison, all Scotland and N.I. maternity units were already accredited by 2016. Meeting this requirement will help provide a good basic standard of infant feeding support in English maternity units but as yet there is no requirement for neonatal units or community services (primarily that means the health visiting service) to achieve Baby Friendly status.

Summary table mapping UK health professional standards against WHO Educational Checklist on Infant and Young Child Feeding. See our report part 1 (for the table) and Part 2 (for details of individual health professions) https://ukbreastfeeding.org/wbtiuk2016/

The 2016 WBTi report highlighted the need for better training for most health professionals who work with new mothers. Since then, we’re very pleased to report that many more resources have been made available, including:

  • The GP Infant Feeding Network (GPIFN) and Hospital Infant Feeding Network (HIFN) were created and both have highly informative websites.
  • There have been some improvements to the paediatric and GP education curricula.
  • BFI has produced learning outcomes for students of several professions – medical, dietetic, pharmacy and maternity support workers/nursery nurses.
  • The University of Glasgow, working with BFI, has developed an e-learning module for first year medical students to support meeting the learning outcomes.
  • The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has regularly updated its position statement on breastfeeding, the latest being June 2021, and includes: ‘RCPCH strongly supports breastfeeding, the promotion of breastfeeding, the provision of advice and support for women, and national policies, practices and legislation that are conducive to breastfeeding. All child health professionals should be trained to deliver simple breastfeeding advice.’
  • The Royal College of General Practitioners launched its position statement on breastfeeding in 2017 and then a free e-learning course on breastfeeding in 2018.
  • An e-book for trainee doctors that I wrote, available on our website.
Free e-book on breastfeeding for doctors, by Patricia Wise
https://ukbreastfeeding.org/supporting-mothers-who-breastfeed-a-guide-for-trainee-and-qualified-doctors/

Thus some progress has been made towards the vision of all mothers who want to breastfeed being able to access seamless support from health professionals, additional breastfeeding specialists and trained peer supporters, all of whom value breastfeeding and are knowledgeable enough either to provide evidence-based information and support themselves or signpost to appropriate support.

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

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

Seeing the world through babies’ eyes

Seeing the world through babies’ eyes

This week (7- 12 June) is Infant Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme is ‘20:20 vision: Seeing the world through babies’ eyes’. The Week is led by the Parent-Infant Foundation (PIF) and the First 1001 Days Movement, a collaboration of relevant organisations with the PIF as secretariat, which is being launched during the week.

What is infant mental health? It is the emotional wellbeing of babies. The Movement’s vision is that ‘every baby has loving and nurturing relationships in a society that values emotional wellbeing and development in the first 1001 days, from pregnancy, as the critical foundation for a healthy and fulfilling life.’

What babies want is what they need and these needs are basic. As obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read  wrote in the mid 20th century:  

“The newborn has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.”

They do also need to receive attention from other humans. If their needs are usually met, babies can form secure relationships (attachment) with their caregivers. Usually, there is one primary caregiver, most commonly the mother. Attachment theory was developed by the psychoanalyst John Bowlby in the 1950s. An attachment figure who cares responsively for the infant provides a secure base. It is believed that behaviours by the infant to stay close when separated, like screaming and clinging, have been reinforced by natural selection (see What is attachment theory).

Babies are vulnerable – as Donald Winnicott, paediatrician and psychoanalyst, among his other insightful quotes, stated:

‘There is no such thing as a baby, there is a baby and someone’.

However, infants are not passive as they communicate by giving cues to their needs, such as the rooting reflex when hungry. If their needs are not responded to quickly, they become upset. Dr. Edward Tronick’s ‘still face’ experiments in the 1970s showed the importance of human connection for an infant. If the parent’s face is still and unresponsive to her baby, the baby looks confused and then becomes distressed. The experiments also showed that ruptures in a relationship like this are easily repaired. Parents do not need to respond perfectly.

However, when there is repeatedly no response to a baby’s distress, as in sleep training where the baby is left alone and expected to adapt, it was found that the babies’ behaviour changed so that by the third night they were no longer crying but their cortisol (stress hormone) levels were still high so there was a mismatch between behaviour and physiology; instead of learning to self-soothe it seems as though they were giving up so in despair. 

The significance of the care babies receive is that their experiences, starting before birth, influence the neural connections that are formed in the developing brain – the ‘wiring’. A parent who is emotionally not really available to the baby (so not attuned to their needs) will find it difficult either to respond or to respond appropriately, providing an unintentional ‘still face’ or angry face. The parents could be ill, depressed, addicted, suffering domestic abuse, desperately worried about their financial situation, overloaded with responsibilities………It is therefore crucial for a society to care for parents so that they can be emotionally available to their children.

Feeding is a crucial part of nurturing care and breastfeeding facilitates the process.There is considerable evidence that not being breastfed is linked to poorer physical health in infants (Lancet, 2016). Breastfeeding provides personalised nutrition. Antibodies and other components in breastmilk reduce the chance and severity of infections. Oligosaccharides in breastmilk feed and thus favour beneficial bacteria in the infant’s gut and this helps the development of a healthy immune system. It is difficult to allow for confounding factors in studies on breastfeeding but reviews show it is linked with better cognitive performance, which is likely to be due to the fatty acids in breastmilk. But what about any impact on emotional development? There are studies which suggest that being breastfed is associated with paying more attention to positive emotions in others.  Breastmilk contains the calming hormone oxytocin, which stimulates social interactions, and which is further released through touch and suckling, so the moods of both mother and baby benefit. Several studies indicate that mothers who are breastfeeding tend to touch their babies more, are more responsive and tend to gaze at them more, all of which will help the infant’s emotional wellbeing. The Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative leaflet, Building a Happy Baby, provides practical suggestions for parents to support their baby’s brain development and addresses myths and realities. 

Jones found that breastfeeding helps to protect infants from the harmful effects of maternal depression

Mothers who stop breastfeeding before they want to are at greater risk of postnatal depression (Borra et al 2014) so mothers need easy access to breastfeeding support to help them continue, thereby benefitting their babies physically and emotionally. Sadly, there are barriers to breastfeeding throughout society, as outlined in the WBTi UK report.

Parents and carers urgently need more support, especially during the stresses and isolation of lockdown and the COVID19 pandemic. We call on government to make infants and their families a high priority during the pandemic and in our plans to rebuild a stronger society.

Photo used with permission

Patricia Wise is an NCT breastfeeding Counsellor and a member of the WBTi UK Steering Group

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

Lockdown with a baby?

Lockdown with a baby?

Maternal Mental Health Day is on the first Wednesday in May, which this year was 6th May.  A group of organisations has launched a new survey to try to capture parents’ experiences in the context of a global pandemic and social distancing. If the survey can be distributed widely to parents with a baby/child under 2 year, or are pregnant, to gather the views of parents of a range of ages, ethnicities and experiences, the data will be particularly useful.

Click HERE for survey link.

The collaborating organisations include members of the First 1001 Days Movement, which is coordinated by the Parent-Infant Foundation, Home-Start UK, Best Beginnings, and the Maternal Mental Health Alliance. The WBTi UK Steering Group have also signed up to support the First 1001 Days Movement.

Do you know anyone who is pregnant or has a child under 2 years who might be interested in completing the survey? Please pass on the survey link. The survey is expected to be open for about 3 weeks, so until late May.

Headline results of the survey are due to be released in Infant Mental Health Awareness Week (7-12 June).

Photo courtesy of Paul Carter, We Do It In Public (wdiip.co.uk)

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

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.