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Health visitors “offer poor quality support to new mums”

18 September 2008

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Concerns have been raised over the “poor quality support” given to new mothers after a poll revealed that almost half see a health visitor only once or twice in the first two months after giving birth.

The role of health visitors in the weeks following a baby’s birth is to give advice on breastfeeding and infant development and also monitor the physical and mental health of both mother and child.

However, a survey of 6,000 mothers by website Netmums revealed widespread concerns over the level of support provided by health visitors.

The organisation wants the government to increase the number of health visitors and is calling for a radical overhaul of the system.

Sally Russell, Netmums’ founder, said: “Some new mothers probably would have received better support from the state 100 years ago than they do today.”

Sarah Cowley, Professor of Community Practice Development at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, added: “Supporting new mothers and their families is crucial if babies are to have a sound start in life and has real repercussions on the child’s future health and wellbeing.

“There are proven links, for example, between mothers’ mental health and children’s behaviour, and between breastfeeding or early weaning and the likelihood of later obesity.”

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