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Using the Solihull Approach in breastfeeding support groups: Maternal perceptions

02 December 2017
17 min read
Volume 25 · Issue 12

Abstract

The October issue of BJM explored using the Solihull Approach in breastfeeding support groups from the perspective of breastfeeding peer supporters. This article examines the mothers' experiences

Background

UK breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in the world, so it is necessary to understand what makes breastfeeding support successful. Anecdotal reports of a West Midlands breastfeeding support group noted the benefits of using a psychosocial model, the Solihull Approach, in their staff training.

Aims

To formally explore maternal perceptions of this peer support breastfeeding service.

Methods

Subgroup sampling resulted in nine semi-structured interviews, which were then analysed with thematic analysis.

Findings

The Solihull Approach helped to create safe spaces, both literally (between supporters and mothers) and figuratively (atmosphere of trust and acceptance in the venues). It also ensured tailored informational and emotional support, which sustained the mothers' attendance to the group.

Conclusions

Breastfeeding support groups can gain in consistency from being underpinned by a model: Solihull Approach would be a promising candidate, as its influence can be helpful to the emotional wellbeing and breastfeeding outcomes of all mothers, regardless of their socioeconomic background.

Breastfeeding is a public health priority in the UK (Public Health England, 2016). While the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using peer support to increase both initiation and duration of breastfeeding (WHO, 2015), a survey of infant feeding co-ordinators in the UK concluded that more evidence was needed to inform the provision of breastfeeding peer-support services (Grant et al, 2017). An evidence-based model called the ‘Solihull Approach’ (Douglas, 2012) has been used in one Local Authority as a basis for the training of breastfeeding supporters. Anecdotal reports suggested that this was helpful and contributed to earning the service a Baby Friendly Award, a best practice accreditation scheme of the Baby Friendly Initiative (UNICEF UK, 2017). A formal qualitative study has been conducted on the experiences of the Solihull Approach-based breastfeeding support group (Thelwell et al, 2017) from the point of view of the breastfeeding peer supporters. This article reports the mothers' perspectives.

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