New mums in County Durham and Darlington looking for support, advice and guidance about infant feeding are now also able to access an enhanced range of virtual support during the Coronavirus pandemic thanks to the efforts of the county’s Infant Feeding Team.
A number of new initiatives have been put in place to support new mums with any feeding and mental health queries including video appointments, the use of social media and telephone calls.
The Infant Feeding Team works to provide advice and support around Infant Feeding in County Durham and Darlington to improve wider health inequalities. The team delivers support to mums via a small team of health visitors, a Staff Nurse, a Specialist Infant Feeding Practitioner and volunteers.
The Team is part of Growing Healthy County Durham, commissioned by Durham County Council’s Public Health, which provides school nursing and health visiting services across the county provided by Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust.
The popular Facebook page (facebook.com/codurhaminfantfeeding) is being used as a form of digital support for mums with the team’s ‘Daily Questions’ proving popular for starting discussions but also helping mums to engage with each other on topics. There are themes each week for scheduled posts including the Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative, mental health for new mums and dads and safe sleep.
Virtual breastfeeding cafes are being set up which directs mums, via an online appointment system, to a platform called ‘Attend Anywhere’ where a member of the team will be waiting to speak via video call. Some of these calls are aimed at making sure the support previously available during the breastfeeding cafes continues. This has been developed as a result of feedback from mums who have been missing the face-to-face service. The plan will be to have at least one virtual breastfeeding cafe each day and the development of extra clinics on Tuesdays and Thursdays similar to the service’s Freemans Quays and Dolphin Centre specialist groups.
Volunteer services boosting mental health
The team’s breastfeeding peer supporters are providing virtual support. The trained volunteers offer complementary support alongside the professionals in order to encourage, engage and boost mental health of our mums. 25 volunteers are signed up to provide virtual support across the whole of County Durham and Darlington.
Joanne T, a mum from Durham, is supporting the new ways of working. She said: “I used breastfeeding cafes when feeding my boys and found the support great. I was feeling a bit alone in trying to establish breastfeeding with a new baby with Down Syndrome in lockdown.
“So to find the virtual breastfeeding cafe was great. Actually being able to talk to someone and see them, discuss the issues and get some help and advice regarding latch and positions. It’s been fabulous and really boosted me to keep going.”
Jessica Young, Specialist Infant Feeding Practitioner, said: “The Coronavirus pandemic has meant the NHS has had to quickly adapt to how it provides care. It’s been a huge challenge up and down the country, and it has, of course, impacted on us and the services we provide to new mums.
“We know that, usually, new mums really appreciate the face-to-face sessions we run. Currently, it’s frustrating for them and it’s frustrating for us that we can’t get together, although for very good reasons.
“So, we have been thinking about new ways in which we can keep in touch and continue providing support. We are really pleased that our new ways of keeping in touch are working well for mums and we’re still able to provide much-needed support and advice.”
Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “It’s great that the service has been able to continue providing valuable support to mums despite the challenges of the coronavirus outbreak.
“Keeping in touch with each other during this time is vital in helping people feel supported in a time where they can possibly feel isolated. This service is a great example of some of the new and creative ways which people are still receiving the help and advice that they need during current lockdown measures.”