by Dr Louise Santhanam, General Practitioner
Breastfeeding can be supported in the GP Practice by staff and the environment as well as through clinical practice. Practices may benefit from an official policy outlining their commitment to enabling breastfeeding mothers. All staff should be aware of the legal protections for breastfeeding in public and be able to explain this to any staff or patients who are unfamiliar. Training for staff can raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding support.
The Breastfeeding Friendly GP Practice
GP Practices can apply to join a scheme which demonstrates commitment to supporting breastfeeding mothers such as:
The GP Practice Environment
Legally a mother can breastfeed in any safe public place, including the GP Practice waiting room. The ‘breastfeeding friendly’ schemes linked above and provision of appropriate signs, leaflets and images can be used to ensure the Practice environment is obviously supportive1. Some women may feel more comfortable feeding in a private space, and it is helpful to make it clear that although she is legally protected feeding in public, privacy can be provided if required by the mother.
Leaflets and Posters
The following are examples of non-commercial posters and leaflets featuring infant feeding that may be useful to display or offer in the GP Practice.
- Public Health England: Start 4 Life Resources Enables downloading and ordering of Start 4 Life posters and leaflets.
- Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative: Resources Information for parents and healthcare professionals about infant feeding. Including links to ‘Welcome to Breastfeed Here’ posters.
- WHO: World Breastfeeding Week 2016 Infographics Posters illustrating breastfeeding support in action.
- La Leche League GB: Posters Posters with supportive messages for breastfeeding mothers, free to download.
Breastfeeding Images and Art
Images of breastfeeding in the Practice public areas or consultation rooms may provide support and encouragement to parents1. An example of an artist producing such work is:
- Leanne Pearce: Community Project The artist Leanne Pearce has devised a programme to help celebrate and normalise breastfeeding in communities with low breastfeeding rates via workshops designed to empower and educate. Prints from her collection ‘Breastfeed’ are available via her shop.
Independent Information and The WHO Code
Breastfeeding can be protected by adhering to the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. To comply with The Code the Practice should not display or distribute free formula or promotional items and should only display non-commercial posters, pamphlets, pictures and photographs. In accordance with The Code gifts from companies manufacturing infant formula, feeding bottles and pacifiers/dummies should not be accepted1.
Breastfeeding Policies for GP Practices
The local Infant Feeding Lead may be able help develop a GP Practice Infant Feeding/Breastfeeding Policy. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommends that a breastfeeding policy should include protections for breastfeeding members of staff as well as patients1.
Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative: Sample Infant Feeding Policy- Children’s Centres This could be used as a guide for development of a policy for GP Surgeries.
The following is an example of good practice from a GP Surgery with a Breastfeeding Policy (scroll down to the end of the page):
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine: AMB Clinical Protocol #14: Breastfeeding-Friendly Physician’s Office: Optimizing Care for Infants and Children Revised 2013