As part of Breastfeeding Celebration Week, Livewell Southwest Health Visitor and one of our four Infant Feeding Leads Jen Fox has written a blog to showcase a day in the life of her role and share how COVID-19 has impacted her work.
My day usually starts by checking in with the Latch On inbox and Plymouth Breastfeeding Mums Facebook pages to see if there have been any questions that haven’t been answered or anything that I can offer a Health Visitor voice to. Plymouth Latch On is a breastfeeding peer support group which offers direct messaging support to breastfeeding mums and this offer has grown during COVID-19. The page is supported by Livewell staff and peer supporters trained by the amazing Mandy Chapman, a Health Improvement Practitioner at Livewell.
COVID-19 has transformed the way the Public Health Nursing team operates, with us now offering the majority of contacts virtually. We are still carrying out safe face to face visits when there is a real need and it is in the best interest of that family. As I sit down at my new workspace tucked in the corner of my bedroom where I can privately do my work, I start reviewing contacts and checking my mobile for texts and missed calls from families.
A large part of my job has always been to support parents; motherhood and fatherhood are tough roles and sometimes we all need someone to listen or bounce ideas off. Health Visitors have noticed a huge increase in mental health concerns since lockdown, and we offer lots of support to parents. I speak to Gemma* about her little boy who is four-months-old. They are having lots of sleepless nights and it is taking its toll. We explore her mood and feelings, normal infant development and the transition that happens at this age in sleep cycles. We joke about the phrase ‘sleeping like a baby’ and Gemma says: “Yeah, should be sleeping like a dad”.
The morning passes with a new birth contact and 9-12 month developmental review. Health Visitor’s offer five key contacts; antenatal, new birth, 6-8 week, 9-12 month development review and a 24-30 month development review, with more support added if the family needs it. New birth contacts are offered when the baby is between 10-14 days old and we cover many topics including: infant feeding, building baby brains, parental mental health and safe sleep. The 9-13 month development reviews are to ensure children are meeting development milestones and to offer support in facilitating development.
Both contacts are completed using Livewell Connect, our app which is allowing us to virtually support people during lockdown through secure video consultations. Working as a Health Visitor is a privilege and building relationships with the parents I support is really important to me. The 9-12 month review is for a little girl I supported with breastfeeding 10 months ago, mum was ready to stop but with support she continued on her feeding journey. Now mum glows as she talks about how empowered she feels to have overcome feeding difficulties and still be feeding now. To watch parents thrive and children develop is special and to be able to still see the children on my caseload is wonderful, so I am really grateful to be able to utilise Livewell Connect.
Working from home has brought some challenges however, I have loved having lunch with my children during these lockdown work days and will miss the garden picnic lunches when they are back at school.
This afternoon I have an antenatal contact; both parents sit at their dining room table smiling back at me through this virtual space. We explore positive parenting and post-natal planning, their expectations of parenthood and how they plan to feed their baby.
Livewell Southwest’s Health Visiting Service is proud to be accredited by The Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI), part of UNICEF. This is an evidence-based programme which supports infant feeding and has demonstrated improved breastfeeding rates. Health Visiting offers parents support on their feeding journeys to help them meet their feeding goals and promote infant health and wellbeing.
My antenatal mum this afternoon has not made a decision on feeding, she has questions on both breastfeeding and formula feeding and we discuss how it’s not necessary to assign a feeding choice antenatally. We talk about responsive feeding; this covers all feeding choices and engages parents with their baby’s early communication and behaviours, building attachment and empowering parents.
The rest of the afternoon is record writing and supporting parents over the phone. The PHN service has a duty phone line (01752 434008) so parents can access support when needed. I am forwarded a task for a mum who is having some pain when feeding, after a quick chat on the phone I make a Livewell Connect appointment and as suspected the little one has a clear case of oral thrush. I write a prescription for mum and baby and drop it to them.
Logging off at the end of the day and reflecting on the support and guidance offered brings satisfaction. COVID-19 might have changed how we deliver the Healthy Child Programme but it hasn’t stopped our dedication to improving child health and wellbeing. This day holds a tiny snapshot of our role and offer to the families of under-fives in Plymouth.