The role of healthcare professionals in supporting parents during infant feeding
Infant nutrition advice from the internet, family and friends is not always adequate and of good quality.
Parents expect their healthcare professionals (HCP) to provide individualized support on infant feeding.
Prenatal and post-birth visits to the HCPs during the first year of life are of fundamental importance to provide nutrition support and counselling.
In this article, Dr Rubens Feferbaum, addresses the fact that infant nutrition in the first 1000 days is important and influences immediate and long-term health1 however, it is common practice for parents to seek advice online, from a wide variety of sources including relatives and friends. The information they receive is not always appropriate, or of adequate quality, advice from family and friends can be contradictory to validated nutritional guidelines and nutritional guidance found on many blogs - often of which are not managed by health professionals – can be based on ideas and opinions with no scientific basis and often in conflict with recommended dietary practices.2 These can all influence parents’ behaviour and nutrition decisions during their child’s first two years of life.
Parents expect Health Care Professionals (HCPs) to provide them with individualized instructions on infant feeding, however, HCPs may also be challenged by certain issues out of their control, such as their busy workload, short consultation times, the strong influence of cultural and regional eating habits of the parents and parental anxiety about feeding their child correctly.3
Essential support required from healthcare professionals
- Critical support aimed at enabling and maintaining breastfeeding.
- Prenatal and postnatal visits with HCPs to allow continuous care.
- Postnatal visits to HCPs during the first year of babies lives because it is of fundamental importance in order to provide ongoing nutritional counselling in accordance with established guidelines and to guide and support successful continuation of breastfeeding or, in its absence, the use of appropriate infant formulas.
- Instruction on complementary nutrition as the child grows is of major importance, it ensures the adequate intake of macro and micronutrients and avoidance of possible dietary difficulties.4
Nutritional guidance by HCPs is therefore of paramount importance in order to monitor and ensure growth and adequate cognitive development of the infant, and to establish healthy eating habits that will accompany the individual throughout life.
Unicef. (2015). Breastfeeding and complementary feeding. Available: http://www.unicef.org/nutrition/index_breastfeeding.html (Accessed: February 2021)
Cheney, A.M.; Nieri, T.; Davis, E.; Prologo, J.; Valencia, E.; Anderson, A.T.; Widaman, K.; Reaves, C.; Sullivan, G. The Sociocultural Factors Underlying Latina Mothers’ Infant Feeding Practices. Glob. Qual. Nurs. Res. 2019. Feb 1;6:2333393618825253.zvv
Dattilo, A. M.; Saavedra, J. M. Nutrition Education: Application of Theory and Strategies during the First 1,000 Days for Healthy Growth. Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Series. 2019;92:1-18.
Fewtrell M, Bronsky J, Campoy C, et al. Complementary Feeding: A Position Paper by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) Committee on Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017;64(1):119-132.