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Jersey Chamber of Commerce

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Category: States of Jersey

First Infant Feeding Midwife Appointed to Support Families

Apr 13, 2023


• The specialist midwife assists mothers and their partners during pregnancy and postnatally 

• The Island is working towards the second stage accreditation of the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative standards

• 65% of babies were breastfed for six to eight weeks after birth last year – the highest recorded percentage between 2011 and 2022

Jersey has appointed its first midwife feeding specialist, a role which supports mums and their families with feeding their babies. 

Debbie McCoy, Midwife Specialist for Infant Feeding, assists mothers and their partners, during pregnancy and postnatally, with their feeding journey, whether that be breastfeeding or formula feeding. 

The Head of Midwifery, Dana Scott, and the senior midwifery leadership team have campaigned for this role alongside a wider health team, including Public Health. The creation of the role was also one of the Minister for Health and Social Services’, Deputy Karen Wilson’s key priorities. 

As well as offering one-on-one support to new parents, Debbie is responsible for ensuring that midwives and health visitors have ongoing professional support and are up-to-date with guidance so that they can give families consistent and constructive feeding advice. 

Debbie said: “My role is to educate and empower staff to ensure that they are all trained to the same standard, so they have the confidence to support mums and their families. We used to say breast is best but informed is best. We want parents to have the correct, evidence-based information so they can make informed decisions.

“Breastfeeding can be difficult and some people do struggle. We are here to ensure that journey is as stress-free as possible. It’s not just about breastfeeding, we also want to make sure we are giving parents the right, unbiased advice about formula feeding.”

One mum who has already benefitted from Debbie’s support is Meryl Laisney.

Debbie helped Meryl overcome breastfeeding challenges experienced with her son, William, now three and gave her help and guidance in advance of the birth of her second child Florence. Now four months in, Meryl says the support she received from Debbie has meant that her breastfeeding journey the second time round has been ‘really easy’.

Meryl said: “I feel really fortunate to have received this support from Debbie. When I was pregnant with my little girl, I was worried that I might have a similar journey again. Debbie met me before the birth and was able to show me some techniques so my supply could kick in.

“I remember her saying, it is a skill you and baby need to learn. She gives you so much support, empathy and patience to inspire you to keep going. I often describe Debbie as the breastfeeding oracle. What you need as a mum is that consistent support. It is important to have that advice for women at an early stage if they are having struggles.”

The Births and Breastfeeding Profile 2022, which was published last month, shows that 65% of mothers were breastfeeding at six to eight weeks after birth – the highest recorded percentage between 2011 and 2022. In comparison, 49% of mothers in England were breastfeeding six to eight weeks after birth.

Debbie said that she wants to build upon last year’s breastfeeding success. She said: “There are many benefits for breastfeeding for both mum and baby. Initiating early breastfeeds which are exclusive until the baby is six months of age and continued until the age of two or beyond, together with the initiation of baby-led weaning, promotes good long-term health and child wellbeing. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by reducing the risks of developing ovarian and breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

As part of her role, Debbie will also be responsible in helping Jersey prepare for assessment under the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. The Baby Friendly Initiative is a programme designed by UNICEF to help empower parents to build close and loving relationships with their babies and to make feeding choices which support optimum health and development.

Jersey, began working towards this accreditation in June 2018 and achieved level one in January 2021. The Island is due to be assessed for level 2 in September 2023 and hopes to gain level three accreditation by the end of 2024. 

In working towards levels two and three, Debbie will provide staff with structured training and assessments of skills to ensure they are working to clinically set standards of breastfeeding.


Government of Jersey News Release

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