Infant feeding can be a confusing area for parents, which puts community pharmacy in the perfect place to answer questions, allay concerns and deal with uncertainties.
In March 2017, a new Public Health England survey of 500 mothers of young children found that almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, but this drops to 44 percent within six to eight weeks. The survey showed that more than half were concerned that breastfeeding could mean they wouldn’t be able to tell if their baby was getting too much or not enough milk. Nearly three in 10 worried that breastfeeding could mean their baby may not be getting the right nutrients.
Evidence shows the right support helps mums to breastfeed for longer. “Getting infant feeding right will help give newborn babies the best possible start in life,” says Jacque Gerrard, Director for England at Royal College of Midwives. “Women need all the support they can get, particularly first-time mothers. It is important that midwives and maternity support workers continue to promote breastfeeding. Any initiative that goes towards helping mothers start and sustain breastfeeding for longer is positive as we know the health benefits from being breastfed last a lifetime.”
According to the ‘Infant Milks in the UK: A Practical Guide for Healthcare Professionals’ report, published by the First Steps Nutrition Trust in August 2017, many women regret giving up breastfeeding so welcome any support that can help them continue. There are a number of national helplines and organisations that can offer support to breastfeeding women (e.g. Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, La Leche League and the Breastfeeding Network).
Medela UK’s in-house Lactation Consultant, Sioned Hilton, says many mothers can access excellent advice and support from their local pharmacists. “They are placed within the hub of the community and have the ideal location to centralise information for local breastfeeding groups, peer support, mum and baby groups, as well as tailored individual advice around breastfeeding challenges,” she says.
Independent community pharmacists are also well placed to stock products that support breastfeeding. According to the Maternity Nurse Association, pain is a major reason why women give up breastfeeding. “We found that Multi-Mam Compresses significantly reduced pain and discomfort when breastfeeding,” says Sarah Childe, founder of the Maternity Nurse Association. “They come in handy individual sachets which prevents them drying out, the gel is not sticky nor does it mark your maternity bra. Compresses are great for getting sore and cracked nipples under control and there is no need to wipe the nipples before feeding – and they didn’t impact on latching.”
If parents are bottle-feeding, the First Steps Nutrition Trust report says it is vital that all those who give advice to parents and carers about infant feeding have access to clear and objective information about the different types of infant formula and other infant milks currently available.
“Many formula-fed babies suffer from colic, constipation, reflux or other minor feeding issues – with around 47 percent of mums switching formulas due to their baby becoming unsettled,” says Claire Magee MD NANNYcare. “In such cases, a medical formula is often not appropriate but a change from the current formula is. Retailers are recognising that parents, wanting only the best for their babies, are seeking out high quality alternatives to more traditional milks. Now is a good time for retailers to capitalise on this by reviewing their formula range to ensure they include premium products, even when space is limited. Given the limitations on shelf-space, pharmacists should ensure they carry one or two credible alternative products that can be suggested if a baby is unsettled on its current milk.”
Colic affects up to one in five babies. A real world evidence study on behalf of Infacol found that the most parents diagnosed infant colic themselves rather than through a healthcare professional. It appears that colic affects both breastfed and bottle-fed babies equally, undermining the notion that breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from colic. Almost all respondents considered that simeticone oral suspension was associated with either totally resolving infant colic or having had some effect on the signs of infant colic.
According to Fiona-Jane Kenworthy, marketing manager at Dr Brown’s, preventing the baby from swallowing air is important in avoiding wind-related colic. Choosing the right baby bottle can help. “Traditional and restrictive vented bottles tend to develop vacuums because babies have to suck progressively harder on the one hole in the bottle to obtain the liquid,” she says. “This causes teat collapse and baby has to stop feeding. Air enters the bottle when the teat re-inflates; the air is ingested which can cause the colic symptoms.”
Baby care essentials
The baby care category is a vast one, ranging from feeding and nappy changing products to toiletries and medicines. Many independent community pharmacies don’t have space to stock a large range, although this will depend on local need, and many parents buy baby products from a supermarket. However, high street pharmacies are often useful for emergency supplies or specialist brands.
A Euromonitor report in May 2017 on Baby and Child-specific Products in the UK revealed that natural and organic baby- and child-specific products continued to drive growth in 2016. This is due to ongoing demand for products with natural ingredients, as parents are increasingly demanding products that are safe and sensitive and don’t mind spending more money on these.
So which products could you stock for a comprehensive babycare section? Key products would be small packs of nappies (including newborn), baby wipes, nappy disposal bags, oral care items and toiletries (e.g. baby shampoo, bath products, moisturisers and lotions, including products for dry skin and eczema). Breastfeeding aids are important, such as breast pads, nipple creams and nipple shields, as well as starter bottle-feeding packs and expressing equipment.
According to the ‘Infant Milks in the UK: A Practical Guide for Healthcare Professionals’ report, published by the First Steps Nutrition Trust in August 2017, the infant formula market is dominated by Aptamil, Cow & Gate, SMA Nutrition and Hipp Organic. Specialist milks (e.g. anti-reflux, lactose-free, soya and goat milks) may attract parents into the pharmacy for advice. If pharmacies wish to stock weaning products, a few basic jars or pouches and bibs, spoons and bowls may help parents on the go, as well as free flow drinking cups.
Medicines for common baby care problems include nappy rash (barrier and treatment creams), teething (including rings and soothers), pain relief, nasal congestion and colic. Other useful products include head lice treatments and chicken pox lotions, especially if there are older children in the house or if the baby goes to daycare nurseries or playgroups.