Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services
I am pleased to share with colleagues the recommendations of the Breastfeeding Task and Finish Group. The Welsh Government is committed to giving every child the best start in life and we know that breastfeeding can be beneficial for the health and development of both mother and baby.
Following feedback on breastfeeding rates in Wales, I established a task and finish group to undertake a review of current breastfeeding practices and develop recommendations for future improvement, learning from the best examples.
The group comprised of key clinicians and stakeholders, and started work in September 2017. It looked at three key areas: current strategic direction across maternity and early years services, best practice models and evaluation of outcomes and breastfeeding rates.
On strategic direction, the report recommends the creation of an All Wales breastfeeding action plan and a strategic oversight group to support delivery. It recommends that a strategic infant feeding lead be appointed in each health board to ensure equality of provision across children’s services and to ensure robust data collection mechanisms.
The report highlights many examples of best practice, where women are supported to breastfeed successfully. These include peer support teams where trained volunteers link with mothers in hospital and community settings to provide advice and support. Innovative models were noted in Swansea University where trainee midwives, supervised by a midwifery tutor, provide a weekly breastfeeding support session if women have problems with feeding. This enables the midwifery students to have practical training and at the same time gain valuable insight into the challenges breastfeeding mothers can face. The report recommends that these examples of good practice along with others cited in the report are embedded within the action plan as models for implementation across Wales.
Finally the recommendations address future performance monitoring and evaluation of breastfeeding training and provision within maternity services. The World Health Organisation UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation scheme is currently utilised within all maternity units. The report recommends a review of current evaluation processes and a cost benefit exercise to be undertaken to recommend what the future model for Wales should look like.
This was an important review to undertake, that highlighted many areas of good practice but also identified opportunities for improvement across the system. At the heart of this work is the desire to ensure the best start in life for our children and I recognise the importance of having knowledgeable support available for women who wish to breastfeed. I am pleased to accept all of the recommendations proposed by the task and finish group. I expect the work on implementation to commence in July 2018.