Empowering informed choices

By Nicola Andrews on 16 July 2018 Breastfeeding Student midwives UNICEF

Third-year student midwife Nicola Andrews describes how she and her student cohort impressed Unicef assessors to help their university receive a 100% pass mark for meeting the standards of the Baby Friendly Initiative.

When I started out as a student midwife (I have been studying midwifery at the University of Salford since September 2015), I had little knowledge in relation to breastfeeding, other than that gained through personal experience of breastfeeding my own two children.

The university is very proud to have the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation and from the very start of the course, education and lectures in relation to breastfeeding have been of a fantastic quality and have been facilitated by enthusiastic and knowledgeable lecturers. Over the last three years we have also been lucky enough to have the opportunity to practise the skills we have learnt through simulation. We have all been taught the benefits of breastfeeding, how to recognise and support good positioning and attachment, how to teach women to hand express for their babies and how to recognise problems in relation to breastfeeding.

Further to this, the university has worked hard to really emphasise that breastfeeding is so valuable, not only in terms of physical benefits for mother and baby, but also psychologically and emotionally. The importance of providing families with holistic care, that encompasses physical wellbeing but also takes into account psychological, emotional and social factors, is well recognised throughout literature and policy drivers related to maternity care.

The lectures that we have had in relation to infant attachment, bonding and responsive breastfeeding have really taught us that the benefits of breastfeeding extend far beyond nutrition, and have given us the confidence to explain to women that responsive breastfeeding can result in a lower incidence of postnatal depression, better long-term attachment and emotional development for their babies and is also linked to higher intelligence levels.

This has given us the confidence to empower women with knowledge to enable them to make informed choices regarding what is best for themselves and their baby.

We have had many opportunities to practise the skills that we have learnt in clinical practice and the university has ensured that we have done so effectively through the completion of breastfeeding observation forms, which need to be signed by a mentor to demonstrate our competence in helping women with positioning and attachment and hand expression.

On 4 July the University had an assessment from Unicef assessors. This involved myself and 19 other girls in our cohort answering questions in relation to breastfeeding scenarios on a one-to-one basis with a Unicef assessor.

The assessors reported being impressed with our knowledge and woman-centred approach to care, and we achieved a 100% pass mark for meeting the standards of the Baby Friendly Initiative. I don’t feel that we did anything particularly special on the day; we simply explained how we would support families with breastfeeding.

In my opinion, we came across as particularly woman-centred due to the fact that we have had such an amazing start to our careers, with fantastic lecturers and clinical placement mentors and we are all passionate about providing the best care and being the best midwives that we can be.

We are all very proud to have been students at the University of Salford and are excited to go and share our knowledge in relation to both breastfeeding and infant attachment with the families who we are soon to care for.

Nicola Andrews, third-year student midwife at the University of Salford