Plunkets New Digital Service Supports Rural Breastfeeding Mothers

04 Jun 2019

Hannah Luke and baby Odin

When Hannah Luke was having difficulty breastfeeding her eight-day-old baby Odin, travelling from her home in Hawera to the city for support services wasn’t an option. So the team at PlunketLine organised an online session for her with its new service – free one-on-one, personalised support via video conferencing (VC) from Plunket nurses trained as International Board Certified Lactation Consultants.

Connecting to health services when living rurally can be especially challenging with a newborn, says Hannah, whose midwife had suggested contacting local service Pregnancy Help to find a lactation consultant. After Pregnancy Help referred her to PlunketLine, a VC was set up for the following day and Hannah says it was just as helpful as a face-to-face session. “The nurse was incredibly knowledgeable and patient. And because she could visually see my positioning and everything, she was able to explain exactly where I was going wrong and also demonstrate the correct methods to me with a doll – so much better than over the phone! I would definitely recommend the service to anyone.” 

The entire process is simple. Following a call to PlunketLine, an invitation is emailed with a Zoom meeting link. “All you need to do is click on the link and it connects directly to the meeting. Reminders are also automatically set up as alerts on your phone beforehand – it was all so easy.”

PlunketLine manager Denise Shera says Hannah’s referral to the new PlunketLine VC breastfeeding service is a great example of how Plunket is linking with other agencies and health professionals to support whānau. “The video conferencing service has brought a different dimension to the support that can be offered to babies and families, allowing professionals to work directly with mothers who have been referred and provide advice as they are breastfeeding. The feedback we’ve received from mothers has been really positive, it’s great to hear about the successful outcomes for families, and the Plunket nurses delivering the service are also enjoying it.”

Of the over 300 calls PlunketLine receives every day, 20% are from mothers who need support to help them breastfeed. The new service was developed following Plunket’s analysis of breastfeeding statistics and other research which highlighted that where more support is provided to mothers they tended to breastfeed for longer.

Recent research by the South Island Alliance also supports these findings. Anna Foease, Well Child Tamariki Ora Quality Improvement project manager, says her recent research on Māori and Pasifika women’s experiences of breastfeeding across the South Island showed that while New Zealand has a relatively high rate of exclusive breastfeeding initiation, there remains a significant drop-off in breastfeeding nationally in the first six months. “While the drop-off is particularly among Māori and Pasifika communities, the project showed families living rurally as well as those who found services difficult to access contributed to the decline. Plunket’s new digital service is a fantastic step towards ensuring equitable access to health services for families across New Zealand, no matter where they live.”

Clients can call PlunketLine directly for a referral to a VC session with a lactation consultant on 0800 933 922.

Zoom is a cloud based service that provides simple online meetings, content sharing, and video conferencing capability. You do not need a Zoom account to attend a Zoom meeting, only the host is required to have an account.

Published on: Tuesday, June 4th, 2019, under Child health