WHO'S WHO IN COMMUNITY FEEDING SUPPORT
Community breastfeeding/chestfeeding support varies enormously across the UK. Expert support is generally provided in clinics and community breastfeeding/chestfeeding support groups. All health visitors, midwives and maternity care assistants can offer some level of feeding support, but the extent of their training is variable. Hospital professionals must understand their local offer to ensure seamless transitions between community and hospital settings. To better understand the qualifications and experience of those in community feeding support see this detailed table.
The highest level of lactation qualification is International Board Certification as a Lactation Consultant - this involves a health professional or breastfeeding counsellor undertaking an additional 90 hours of lactation education and 1000 hours of practical experience, along with passing an exam. They may work in a voluntary or paid capacity.
Breastfeeding counsellors are experienced breastfeeding/chestfeeding parents who receive training and accreditation from one of the lay lactation organisations, sometimes in combination with a University. Training is generally around 2 years in length. They often work in a voluntary capacity.
Peer supporters are volunteers with some breastfeeding/chestfeeding experience who receive around 25 hours of education from a local or national organisation. They provide social/emotional support and can give support with basic lactation issues, in a voluntary capacity.
The Unicef Baby Friendly Initiative provides accreditation of community as well as hospital settings. Community assessment revolves around the health visiting team, and any children's centres. Level 3 is the highest level of certification, and a Gold award signifies that the service has moved beyond accreditation towards full sustainability. Professionals working within a BFI accredited service should receive quality breastfeeding education and deliver breastfeeding-friendly care within their professional setting. BFI accreditation should be the universal standard of care according to NICE and the Department of Health. BFI also offers an individual qualification to professionals.