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Public Health England’s updated guidance on The Healthy Child Programme published
The Early Years High Impact Area 3: Supporting Breastfeeding (updated 17 March 2021) guidance explains how the role of health visitors can improve health and wellbeing outcomes at individual, family, community and population levels, and provides a place-based approach to help meet the challenges that public health and the health and social care system face.
At the individual and family levels, health visitors with infant feeding knowledge and skills play a key role in supporting breastfeeding and responsive feeding for all parents. They also work seamlessly with maternity services to provide opportunities for women and mothers to learn about and understand:
- infant feeding
- the benefits of breastfeeding
- the risks associated with not breastfeeding
- supporting initiation and prevalence.
At a community level, health visitors play a key role in providing practical help and support by working with communities to establish peer support programmes in order to support breastfeeding and responsive infant feeding.
At a population level, health visitors can ensure a whole system approach to promoting breastfeeding by implementing the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly standards and supporting other settings to become Baby Friendly, including training for early years staff.
Public Health England describe the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative as a ‘nationally recognised mark of quality care for babies and mothers. The programme helps to ensure that professionals can provide sensitive and effective care and support for mothers, enabling them to make an informed choice about feeding, get breastfeeding off to a good start and overcome any challenges they may face. The staged accreditation programme trains health professionals to support mothers to breastfeed and helps all parents to build a close and loving relationship with their baby irrespective of feeding method.’
Public health services are asked to measure their success or outcomes by providing:
- evidence of implementation of evidence-based infant feeding policies setting out best practice in relation to breastfeeding support via local commissioner and provider data
- breastfeeding initiation rates monthly via the Maternity Services Data Set
- breastfeeding prevalence at 6 to 8 weeks after birth
- increased duration of breastfeeding among those least likely to breastfeed, that is those living in areas of deprivation and mothers aged under 20 years, via local commissioner and provider data.
Improvements will be measured in a number of ways, including:
- systematic collection of service user experience
- increased use of evidence-based interventions
- improved partnership working
- planning the design and delivery of services together through Local Maternity Systems, Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships and Integrated Care Systems
- appropriate alignment to obesity priority areas and strategies, for example oral health and tooth decay
- achieving and maintaining the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative.
For more information and to read the full report, visit Public Health England.