The National Breastfeeding Helpline meets a clear need for non clinical breastfeeding information and support, and makes an effective and efficient contribution to government policy to achieve better outcomes for mothers and babies.
There is a high level of satisfaction among users with the service provided by the Breastfeeding Helpline, which is testimony to the investment in service infrastructure including quality staff. Continued work is required to ensure the consistency of information and support provided to callers.
The Breastfeeding Helpline has made good progress towards its objectives responding to a wide range of information and support needs from breastfeeding mothers and making referrals to other services to more widely meet the needs of callers. The service is utilised by callers from all jurisdictions with some making better use of the resource than others. Similarly, while the service is well utilised by callers between the ages of 26 and 39, there is poor reach to priority population groups including younger mothers, mothers with disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and mothers with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Suggestions for improved access to the Breastfeeding Helpline included better promotion of the service to reinforce its relevance to all mothers, to assist in differentiating the service from other helplines with a view to improving consumer choices and making best use of government resources, and to encourage better utilisation of interpreter and teletypewriter capabilities.
The following recommendations are made based on the findings of the evaluation.
- A comprehensive strategy is developed to identify current and any further action required to staff the Breastfeeding Helpline to meet existing demand and potential growth in demand, and to address call waiting times and counsellor workload.
- A realistic assessment is undertaken of the extent to which the Breastfeeding Helpline in its current form offers an appropriate medium to meet the information and support needs of priority population groups , drawing from the evidence of good practice and emerging research in jurisdictions.
- Promotion of the Breastfeeding Helpline be reviewed to ensure that messages and materials are appropriately targeted to improve understanding of the Helpline as relevant and accessible to all women as a source of peer support.
- A strategic set of performance indicators aligned to agreed Breastfeeding Helpline outcomes be selected to enhance current reporting arrangements. This would form the basis an annual report on Breastfeeding Helpline activity and insights about the needs of breastfeeding women, which would include a breakdown of information to jurisdictional level.
- The role of the Breastfeeding Helpline within the service system is reinforced by differentiating the Breastfeeding Helpline from other parenting and health helplines. This should be undertaken as a shared responsibility of governments and other service providers for meeting consumer needs and reducing service duplication. The Department could facilitate discussions with jurisdictions to consider memorandum of understanding type arrangements between the Helpline and other helplines.
- The Breastfeeding Jurisdictional Officers Group investigate the opportunity for influencing greater consistency in breastfeeding training of health professionals and the role for the ABA.