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CoNP Blog - August 2023 by Judy Hitchcock, RN

We have just spent a very busy World Breastfeeding Week, with local events and promotions being as impressive as those that were found and shared on Twitter and the social media platforms. I was particularly grateful for the on-line resources provided and free to share from The European Foundation for Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI), and World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). It made the creation of the wall display so much easier and engaging, providing a fitting Topic Board, complementing our local breastfeeding support group morning tea. It was particularly heartening to see all the bonnie babies and toddlers who are fully exclusively breastfeeding and thriving on it.

Throughout the week, the social media platforms were frequently populated with fabulous infographics depicting the challenges faced by breastfeeding mothers when returning to work, particularly in finding a suitable environment to express their breast milk. Breast feeding is encouraged for as long as possible and yet for many, returning to work thwarts that goal, with very little amenities provided to encourage expressing breast milk during working hours. So, this year’s focus for the duration of world breastfeeding week, has been to encourage and promote having designated work time to express in a comfortable environment, with storage facilities for breast milk also provided. It will be a game changer for many mothers, who must express breast milk during work hours to continue that commitment to breastfeed exclusively fully. Many reasons have been exposed, through discussions and research, for the barriers to continuing breastfeeding when returning to work and having nowhere to comfortably express breast milk is a primary concern; with many having been only offered restroom facilities and nowhere to store milk once pumped. The discussions at our local meeting, with our breastfeeding mums, was quite interesting in that being more of a provincial location, many were able to incorporate a breastfeeding time during their working day, as family members were complicit and helpful in bringing the infants to their place of work in order to be breast fed on site and that had obviously worked very well, it showed that with family involvement and commitment, it was possible to actually continue fully exclusively breastfeeding, even though working full time, when you were close to home. Working in the city is a more demanding and restrictive work environment and unlikely to be possible for family to bring the baby to the mother for a feed, making the need to have the time and designated environment to express breast milk, all the more important. Returning to work should not mean needing to supplement with formula feeds because expressing facilities are not provided during working hours.

It’s worth mentioning that a submission from Health Care Professionals Associations, of which COINN is a member, has recently been made to all HCPAs asking them to end all sponsorship of breast milk substitutes and the marketing of the same; and will be submitted to The Lancet for publication. Calls for an end to marketing breast milk substitute formulas have been ongoing since 1981, but the need is still apparent, as marketing promotion of breast milk substitutes continue to undermine those who would and could breastfeed if breast milk substitutes were not promoted in earnest. It is having a positive effect, as sponsorship of conferences and promotional freebies, like pens and fridge magnets, have been taboo for many years .Providing formula, especially prem formula, in the neonatal unit and NICUS is a different ball game altogether, but even this is becoming an exception to the rule, as there is a very strong move towards providing donor breast milk, as opposed to formula, for our prems.

August, having been heralded in by world breastfeeding week, now moves quickly towards the next exciting event, which is on the 15th, International Neonatal Nurses Day

It’s our annual event and an opportunity to recognise the tremendous support and commitment that neonatal nurses have in caring for sick and small newborn infants around the world. It’s a day to appreciate neonatal nurses globally and to acknowledge that in many countries, Neonatal Nursing is not specifically identified and caring for sick and small infants is not underpinned by clinical governance.

The WHO has developed guidelines for caring for sick and small infants, particularly in low-income countries, in collaboration with COINN, and these can be accessed using their toolkit.

COINN have been actively supporting neonatal nurses in African countries to care for sick and small newborn infants and are to be marking International Neonatal Nurses Day with the launch of the Community of Neonatal Practise that will specifically target supporting Neonatal Nurses in African countries. To mark the event there will be a webinar at 3:00 PM, central European time (CET) and will outline the goals and the vision and the direction that becoming a member will support Neonatal Nurses in Africa to develop their skills caring for sick and small newborn infants.

Recently the International Council of Nurses (ICN) conference in Montreal was attended by COINN representatives and mentioned today at the Australian College of Nursing National Nursing Forum, during a presentation from ICN, David Stewart, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer, Nursing and Health policy, promoting a global focus on nursing and that the nursing shortages are predicted to increase as we approach 2030 and the review of the Sustainable development goals, which are currently behind on targets. However, it was so encouraging to witness how all the goals of key players dovetail nicely with COINNs endeavours and the upcoming launch of CoNP on 15th August.

Please mark your diary and join us for the launch on International Neonatal Nurses Day.

By Judy Hitchcock, RN

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