Seminar supports breastfeeding across Wales

A seminar examining ways of supporting breastfeeding across Wales will help shape future policy in Wales.

Research shows breastfeeding rates in Wales are low by international standards, and mothers living in less affluent parts of Wales are much less likely to feel that breastfeeding is a realistic option for them.

Over a hundred policy-makers, mothers, peer supporters, midwives and health visitors gathered to generate new thinking on peer support interventions at the latest ‘Health Challenge Wales’ seminar, convened by DECIPHer and Public Health Wales.

‘Breastfeeding peer support’ interventions – where local mothers are trained to help other mothers with breastfeeding – have improved breastfeeding rates in other countries. But seminar organisers say definitions of effective peer support, and how to measure its impact, are unclear.

Heather Trickey, seminar convenor, said: “Decisions about how babies are fed involve the wider family, and are influenced by beliefs and attitudes in mothers’ wider social networks. Mothers rely on their peers for encouragement and support. The Health Service cannot work in isolation from these influences. But ‘breastfeeding peer support’ should not be thought of as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution to the challenges that mothers face. We need to know what kinds of support mothers will welcome. We also have to accept that interventions may need to be different in different communities, and to understand what other policy and practice measures have to be in place for the support to be effective in improving experiences of breastfeeding”.

Evidence gathered will inform the direction of Welsh Government policy. Delegates discussed emerging research findings, shared their policy, practice and personal experiences, and participated in recorded discussions exploring how peer support might work, what stops peer support working, where it might work best, and how mothers can be offered support.

Further information on DECIPHer’s work on breastfeeding is available from Heather Trickey, DECIPHer: TrickeyHJ@cardiff.ac.uk ; +44 (0)29 20 879609.