You can help breastfeeding mums find support in their local area and offer invaluable advice. Read what Dr Helen Crawley, public health nutritionist, First Steps Nutrition Trust, advises in the final instalment of our feature.

How can pharmacists support breastfeeding mums?

There is unequivocal evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, for mum’s health, for public health and for the environment.

Evidence tells us women want to breastfeed and that accessing one-to-one support in the early stages of breastfeeding is essential for women to continue breastfeeding.

Pharmacists can support women who are breastfeeding by ensuring they have information about all the breastfeeding support available in their area: through local public health and through voluntary peer and mother-to-mother support networks.

Current public health advice is that women exclusively breastfeed for around six months and then continue breastfeeding for the first year alongside appropriate complementary foods – after that, for as long as they wish to continue. Breastfeeding mums may feel hungrier and want to eat more.

It is suggested mums who exclusively breastfeed may need an extra 300kcal/day in the first six months, but women will always produce enough breastmilk for their baby whatever their diet.

If women are not breastfeeding, or are mixed feeding, then the only milk their baby needs in the first year of life is first cow’s or goat’s milk-based infant formula.

Parents should be discouraged from self-diagnosing feeding issues in their infants and using specialised milk products, which clearly state on the tin that they should be used under medical supervision – pharmacists should consider keeping these products behind the counter.