We know that high quality support in the early days and weeks plays a vital role in protecting breastfeeding and there are clear policies and training in place to enable this. But what happens when support is needed for older infants and children, especially those who are experiencing medical challenges, hospital admission and illness?
Breastfeeding is known to promote optimal maternal and infant health and development, but arguably it can be particularly beneficial for vulnerable children who are unwell, both in terms of supporting their nutrition and for reassurance and connection. It is a deeply meaningful parenting tool during times of chaos and uncertainty.
Yet breastfeeding support and training is often geared towards initiating feeding and troubleshooting early feeding challenges in healthy term infants or preterm neonates. The paediatric environment lags behind maternity and neonatal settings in terms of understanding, valuing and supporting breastfeeding, creating unnecessary obstacles for mothers to support their child and meet their personal feeding goals.
Breastfeeding the Brave seeks to tackle this under researched area, highlighting the needs and challenges of medically complex infants and children in the paediatric setting. Drawing on novel research it explores the difficulties of feeding children with both common as well as serious, critical and life-limiting conditions. Topics covered include respiratory compromise, complex fluid and calorie needs, positioning challenges, low tone and altered reflexes, as well as changes to breastfeeding behaviour which together mean that sick children in paediatrics sometimes require a creative and unique approach to supporting lactation.
Drawing on 20 years’ experience working in paediatrics and lactation support, I bring together the latest research and clinical knowledge in this field with personal stories of perseverance in breastfeeding by mothers and families of very sick children. The work is brought to life through stunning paintings by Artist Leanne Pearce capturing their journey.
Intended to be supportive and informative to both nonclinical lactation advocates as well as clinicians working in paediatrics, neonatology and the community, Breastfeeding the Brave bridges an important gap in lactation knowledge by drawing on dual expertise in paediatric clinical care and lactation, to bring a compassionate, family centred approach to supporting these children and their families.
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