Assessing learning needs for breastfeeding: setting the scene

Authors


Alison McFadden, Mother and Infant Research Unit, Department of Health Sciences, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK. E-mail: am534@york.ac.uk

Abstract

Breastfeeding has a major contribution to make to public health, yet the UK, like many other developed countries, has low rates of breastfeeding. A contributing factor is that practitioners are ill-prepared to support breastfeeding women. There is a mismatch between the care professionals provide and the support women desire. A national breastfeeding learning needs assessment (LNA) was carried out in England to provide a comprehensive picture of professional and practitioner learning needs and existing training opportunities and resources. The LNA comprised five elements, and sought the views of service users through consumer organizations and voluntary breastfeeding supporters. Two elements of the LNA are reported here. A search of RDLearning, a web-based national resource, provided details of existing accredited courses in the UK for practitioners. Ten short courses provided by higher education institutions were identified, along with a range of courses offered by voluntary and other organizations, such as the National Childbirth Trust and UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. Second, an e-mail survey of 28 key stakeholder organizations was undertaken, with a response rate of 68% (n = 18). All but one acknowledged that their members could benefit from further breastfeeding knowledge and expertise and were supportive of a national breastfeeding education initiative. The most popular forms of education provision were workshops and seminars, online and written information. The topic considered most important for all practitioners was the health outcomes of breastfeeding. Other contributions which stakeholder organizations felt they could make were the provision of information resources and setting up specialist interest groups.

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