Researchers at The University of Western Australia have launched a world-first online lactation care support system called LactaMap to support GPs help patients who have problems breastfeeding.
Lead researcher Melinda Boss, a senior research fellow in the pharmacy division of UWA’s School of Allied Health, said LactaMap was developed specifically to provide doctors with an evidence-based program they can use during consultations to help treat mothers and babies experiencing lactation issues.
“Unlike other medical guidelines, LactaMap is an online lactation care support system for doctors to use at the point of care, to support mothers and infants experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding,” Ms Boss said.
“Lactation completes the reproductive cycle but is often considered outside of the scope of modern medicine. Conflicting advice is one of the most common factors that impact a mother’s confidence in her ability to initiate and sustain breastfeeding.”
Ms Boss said LactaMap addressed four key questions: is there pain or discomfort for the mother or baby during breastfeeding; are there concerns about maternal milk synthesis or the baby’s ability to remove milk; does the baby or mother have any diagnosed medical conditions that need strategies to support breastfeeding.
“Once the GP has this information base, they can then work through the platform to develop a personal care plan for the patient,” she said. “The platform contains 112 clinical practice guidelines as well as the LactaPedia glossary and 21 information sheets that can be printed out during the consultation or emailed to patients.”
LactaPedia is an online lactation dictionary for science and medicine that sets the international standard for breastfeeding language. It was created by Ms Boss and Emeritus Professor Peter Hartmann to address the lack of consistency in lactation-related terminology and help counteract some of the conflicting advice women receive when breastfeeding.
It defines more than 560 terms associated with lactation including physiology, the composition of human milk and conditions that affect lactation. The lactation glossary can be freely accessed by medical professionals and scientists as well as the general public.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, less than 16 per cent of Australian babies are exclusively breastfed to five months of age – a significant concern considering exclusive breastfeeding to six months has been identified by the World Bank Group as having the single biggest potential impact on child mortality of any preventative intervention.
As reported in The Journal of Human Lactation, early weaning represents a major public health concern and results in an estimated $4 billion loss to the Australian economy each year.
“Our hope is to create a common medical and scientific understanding that will help to normalise human lactation,” Ms Boss said. “Evidence-based support and guidance from their GP is important to help women achieve their breastfeeding goals as well as optimise infant and maternal health.”
LactaMap is accessible to doctors free of charge. The research team gratefully acknowledges the support of major sponsor The Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation, as well as the support of the Rotary Club of Southern District.
Photo by Rainer Wolfsberger, courtesy of Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation.