How the pharmacy setting can help, not hinder, breastfeeding mums
Researchers from WellSouth Primary Health Network in New Zealand have been considering how pharmacies promote and support breastfeeding.
“Pharmacists are often the most accessible medication expert[s] for breastfeeding women, and need reliable resources to provide information about medications and safety with breastfeeding,” say the researchers in a letter to the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health.
However, they argue that “many women cease breastfeeding unnecessarily due to fear of harm from drugs being excreted into breastmilk, and pharmacists may contribute to the misconception about this risk”.
Data from Australia suggests pharmacy staff more commonly respond to breastfeeding difficulties with advice about infant formula, rather than breastfeeding perseverance, they say.
“Unnecessary cessation of breastfeeding is problematic: it not only deprives a child of the best conditions for health and nutrition, but may negatively affect the psychological wellbeing of the mother, due to lowered self-esteem following discontinuation.”
As part of the Health Promotion team of WellSouth PHN, the researchers asked local pharmacies to participate in a survey about breastfeeding-related practices.
Thirty-three pharmacists completed the online survey; in addition, five focus groups (two urban and three rural) were run with pharmacists and pharmacy staff.
All but two survey participants said they would support their workplace entering a formal ‘breastfeeding friendly’ accreditation process with WellSouth PHN.
Respondents identified no uniform process for identifying breastfeeding women – a result the authors said was “problematic considering more than half encountered scripts contraindicated for breastfeeding women on a monthly basis”.
To help with this, they suggest:
- The use of counter-top signs requesting women to disclose whether they are pregnant or breastfeeding; and
- Professional development to increase pharmacy staff knowledge about medications in breastfeeding, and breastfeeding health promotion.
“Pharmacies already appear to possess an atmosphere and formal processes that promote, protect and support breastfeeding,” say the researchers.
“Room for improvement exists, nonetheless, regarding the identification of breastfeeding women, professional development opportunities and collaboration with existing community-based support services,” they conclude.
See the full letter here
How does your pharmacy support breastfeeding?