A day in the life - National Breastfeeding Week

By infant feeding midwife Breda Murphy on 28 June 2022 NHS MSWs - Maternity Support Workers NHS Unions Trade Unions Breastfeeding

For National Breastfeeding Week, infant feeding midwife Breda Murphy shares a day in the life story of being a midwife and supporting women when it comes to breastfeeding – striking a balance of providing evidence-based information and respecting and supporting the woman’s choice.

Disclaimer: all the names of the women have been changed.

It is 7am. I start my shift in the hospital. Checking the diary, I see there is a woman on the ward who would like some help; a guideline to be updated; an antenatal class to teach; and a feeding clinic in the afternoon. Time to step to it!

Nora is having trouble feeding her baby who appears to have a lot of mucous. We sit together and go through hand-expressing with my trusty woollen boob, which I carry everywhere. I collect the colostrum with a syringe while she expresses: we get two whole syringes! I show her partner how to give it to the baby so she can rest.

10:30. I find a quiet space to teach an online antenatal feeding class. Since COVID we have had to adapt quickly to the online world. This can be challenging - computer experts we are not, but we make it work as best we can. There are some partners today too. I try to involve them and discuss how they can help. The more people supporting this dyad, the more likely they are to succeed.

After a quick bite to eat, I go to our feeding drop-in clinic. Angela is there early she has struggled with breastfeeding, and really wants to exclusively breastfeed. This last week she has stopped top-ups, so we are nervous about the baby’s weight. The baby has gained 200g! We do a happy dance; it is a wonderful moment.

I check my work phone as Eva was meant to come, one of my regular mothers. She has texted to say feeding is going brilliantly and she might pop in another time. I smile to myself thinking of the journey she has taken over the last few weeks, and how proud I am of her.

Back on the ward I pop back in to see *Nora. Her bags are packed she is going home soon. The mucous cleared and the baby is latching beautifully. I give her our contact details and congratulate her again on her beautiful baby. Time for a cup of tea before home?

Infant feeding can be a challenging, complex but very rewarding role. Promoting and supporting breastfeeding is an important component, however this must be done carefully striking a balance between providing evidence-based information and respecting a woman’s right to choice.

Getting this balance wrong can leave a woman feeling alienated and unwilling to seek support. Those who do not wish to breastfeed must be supported and shown how to do this correctly and safely. Education is a key part of the role giving the most recent, evidence-based information to midwives, support workers, students and medical staff to empower them to better support women and families. Supporting breastfeeding can be time consuming but early and appropriate support can prevent issues and increase a woman’s chance of success.

Our role is health promoter, teacher, sympathetic ear, shoulder to cry on, advocate and last of all champion to all the wonderful women out there.