Anyone following the #MatExp campaign will know that June has been a month of ACTION, with birth professionals, volunteers and families stating how they are going to act to improve maternity services. I chose four actions for the month, and one of them was to continue to campaign for better breastfeeding support on children’s wards.
It seemed appropriate then to take a moment as we come to the end of #FlamingJune to update you on the #hospitalbreastfeeding campaign.
The campaign began as a way to have an impact on breastfeeding support services at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where my little boy is cared for. You can read about how it all began in my previous blog posts #hospitalbreastfeeding part 1 and part 2. At the end of part 2 I was awaiting a response from the hospital’s Chief Exec, Louise Shepherd, with regards to concerns I had raised with her about changes to the Health Promotions team and what that would mean for the progress that has already been made.
I am delighted to say that Louise’s response to me was considered and in depth and answered each of my points in turn. I will share some of the information with you here:
- Management of the hospital’s breastfeeding policies to be moved away from Health Promotions to the Neonatal team. Once the new designated policy lead has been appointed I will be meeting with them to discuss support in the hospital and to ensure that breastfeeding does not become an issue “just” for neonates.
- Training of the hospital’s Bosom Buddy Breastfeeding Supporters (nurses and healthcare assistants with responsibility for supporting breastfeeding). There are currently 43 in the hospital and they all receive training on “breastfeeding the sick neonate” from either the Edge Hill University team or Medela.
- Introducing Bliss Champions to the wards: this would be a really positive step and hopefully something that can be brought together once Alder Hey is on its new site.
- Working towards Baby Friendly Status: Louise stated in her letter that “The Trust is committed to achieving Baby Friendly Accreditation when we move to the new hospital [in September 2015] as we will have a high level of breastfeeding facilities for parents and our Neonatal Unit will be shared with our Cardiac Unit which will ensure that neonates receive the best care possible. We are keen to work with Baby Friendly to not just receive accreditation for our Neonatal Unit but to develop standards for a paediatric Trust as we believe that all acute paediatric Trusts should achieve the Baby Friendly Accreditation.”
I am delighted with the commitment to and understanding of breastfeeding support issues that has been demonstrated by the Chief Executive at Alder Hey, and am very encouraged by their commitment to gaining Baby Friendly accreditation. There are only two areas of immediate concern that I have with regards to the hospital, and those are:
- Referral Pathway – What is the referral pathway if a Bosom Buddy is unable to resolve a mum’s issues? Due to the level of training received by both Health Promotions and the Bosom Buddies I am wondering if they are equipped to deal with issues like IGT (insufficient glandular tissue), hormonal complications, tongue tie, tongue and palate abnormalities, infection and so on? This was a concern flagged by Emma Pickett of the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers with whom I have been discussing #hospitalbreastfeeding, and it is something I have raised with Liz Edwards, Head of Patient Experience.
- Training Provider – a number of people I have spoken to have raised a concern with the hospital using Medela as its training provider. Medela are not WHO Code compliant and as such are not viewed by many as a suitable training provider for one of the country’s premier children’s hospitals. I do share this concern, but if the hospital is truly committed to achieving Baby Friendly accreditation this is something that will have to change in time as per the BFI Initiative’s own guidelines. So I am hopeful that this will be addressed.
So what of the #hospitalbreastfeeding campaign in a wider context? I had the great privilege of attending the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers Annual Conference in Birmingham this month, and have been asked to write something for their magazine later on this year. I was able to contribute a poster to the fantastic display at the conference, and a flyer for the delegates. These resulted in a couple of conversations with people new to the campaign, including a student nurse who has had some experience of families requiring breastfeeding support on a renal ward. I look forward to furthering these contacts.
I also had the opportunity to ask a question of Baby Friendly representative Francesca and find out what are their plans for making Baby Friendly Accreditation available to children’s hospitals and departments. As Louise Shepherd noted in her letter to me, it is currently available to maternity services, health visitors, neonatal units, children’s centres and universities, but not paediatric units. This is a huge gap and recognition that there IS a gap is the first step to filling it. Francesca was sympathetic to the issue and explained that BFI is a small team with a huge remit, but they will make inroads on this if we keep pushing them. Emma Pickett dryly observed that “heartmummy is good at that!”.
The fact that Alder Hey are keen to work with BFI to fill this gap is fantastic to hear, and I hope that GOSH, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and other paediatric units feel the same. I received some encouraging tweets from Bliss nurse Cheryl Curson about progress being made in Birmingham:
I am rounding off this month with a trip to the Manchester Breastfeeding Festival on Saturday and I will be taking my flyers with me. My job now is to continue to raise the issue of support for breastfeeding on children’s wards – not maternity, not NICU, but on the wards where babies are cared for alongside older children, and bearing in mind that those older children could well be breastfeeding natural term. These families need support just as much as those on postnatal and neonatal wards. For an insight into why, please have a read of the case studies on my website.