Increasing rates of breastfeeding is a public health priority both internationally and regionally. Despite high compliance with evidence-based strategies to protect and promote breastfeeding, Northern Ireland rates remain low. One challenge is to increase breastfeeding duration and exclusivity after initiation. Previous research has established that many women cease breastfeeding before they intended to do so, and surveys in Northern Ireland have shown that some women do not feel they receive adequate information and support to meet their breastfeeding goals.
This PhD aims to investigate the views and experiences of healthcare professionals, trained volunteers and trained lactation consultants who support women to breastfeed in Northern Ireland, and women’s views on the support that they receive. This original study will provide evidence to support a gap in the understanding of these experiences in Northern Ireland where rates of both breastfeeding initiation and duration are amongst the lowest reported rates in the world.
This project is funded by the DfE.
What is your ideal Research outcome?
Identification and understanding of inherent factors that influence breastfeeding support provision, together with exploration and understanding of elements that women identify as important in the breastfeeding support that they receive. Findings have the potential to inform policy and policy delivery, and lead to the development of a contextually specific complex intervention to improve breastfeeding rates.
Dr Jenny McNeill and Dr Maria Healy
Why did you choose this PhD and why at Queen’s?
As a midwife living in Belfast, my interest in research developed alongside practice, in particular what matters and makes a positive difference to women, babies and those who care for them within maternity care services. Following undergraduate degrees in Food Science (University of Leeds), Nursing (Adult Branch, Kingston University) and Midwifery studies (Queen’s University Belfast), I completed an MSc. in Advanced Professional Practice (Maternal and Child Health) whilst working as a midwife in a Midwifery Led Unit.
I have an interest in teaching and obtained a PG Cert HP in 2018 (Ulster University) when working as a Midwife Education Consultant, teaching post-registration midwives at the regional Clinical Education Centre. I was awarded a DfE studentship to pursue my own research interests further and commenced this full-time PhD study in September 2019.
How have you been supported at Queen’s?
Speaking at seminars and conference, in-house and external training opportunities.