The Breastfeeding Conundrum
In an ideal world, every infant would be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? Despite these guidelines, breastfeeding rates continue to fall short. The first two weeks post-birth are pivotal for establishing successful breastfeeding, and this is where the role of the midwife becomes indispensable. But what does breastfeeding support look like from the midwife’s perspective? Let’s dive into the findings of a comprehensive systematic review to find out.
The Research Behind the Curtain
The review was meticulously conducted by two independent researchers who scoured studies published between January 2005 and December 2014. These studies had to focus on the role of the midwife in breastfeeding support, specifically from the midwife’s viewpoint. A total of eight qualitative studies were included, representing the experiences of 231 midwives and 24 maternity nurses, primarily working in hospital settings.
The Two Schools of Thought
The review revealed two distinct approaches to breastfeeding support: ‘The Midwife as a Technical Expert’ and ‘The Midwife as a Skilled Companion.’
The Technical Expert
Midwives adopting this approach are primarily breast-centered. They focus on the mechanics of breastfeeding, such as latch and positioning, and often employ a hands-on approach. These midwives view the mother as a novice who needs explicit guidance.
The Skilled Companion
On the flip side, midwives who consider themselves ‘Skilled Companions’ adopt a woman-centered approach. They focus on nurturing the mother-infant relationship and generally use a hands-off approach, allowing the mother to learn and adapt naturally.
The Elephant in the Room: Barriers to Effective Support
Midwives working in hospital settings face numerous challenges that hinder their ability to provide optimal breastfeeding support. Time constraints are a significant issue, making it difficult for midwives to adopt their preferred ‘Skilled Companion’ approach.
The Silver Lining: Supporting Factors
Evidence-based breastfeeding guidelines can positively influence the quality of support provided by midwives. These guidelines serve as a valuable resource, enabling them to offer more informed and effective support.
The Bleep 360 Difference
At Bleep 360, we understand the complexities of the midwife’s role in breastfeeding support. It’s not just about filling positions; it’s about finding candidates who are aligned with the specific needs and challenges of this role. By appreciating the two different approaches to breastfeeding support, we can better match candidates to roles where they will excel and find fulfillment. Our tailored recruitment strategies aim to address the real-world challenges and preferences of midwives, contributing to a more effective and fulfilling breastfeeding support system.
The review concludes that while most midwives lean towards the ‘Technical Expert’ approach, many would prefer to be ‘Skilled Companions.’ However, various barriers, particularly in hospital settings, make it challenging for them to fully adopt this approach.
The Path Forward
Understanding the perspectives and challenges of midwives in providing breastfeeding support is crucial for healthcare systems aiming to improve breastfeeding rates. Future research should focus on identifying ways to overcome the barriers faced by midwives and to facilitate their role as ‘Skilled Companions,’ which many believe offers a more holistic and effective form of support.
The role of the midwife in breastfeeding support is multi-faceted and influenced by various factors, both personal and professional. As a leading healthcare recruitment agency, Bleep 360 has a unique role to play in this landscape. By aligning our recruitment strategies with the real-world challenges and preferences of midwives, we can contribute to a more effective and fulfilling breastfeeding support system.