11 April 2023
Jersey has appointed its first midwife feeding specialist, a role which supports mums and their
families with feeding their babies.
Debbie McCoy, Midwife Specialist for Infant Feeding, assists mothers and their partners,
during pregnancy and postnatally, with their feeding journey, whether that be breastfeeding
or formula feeding.
The Head of Midwifery, Dana Scott, and the senior midwifery leadership team have
campaigned for this role alongside a wider health team, including Public Health. The creation
of the role was also one of the Minister for Health and Social Services’, Deputy Karen Wilson’s
As well as offering one-on-one support to new parents, Debbie is responsible for ensuring
that midwives and health visitors have ongoing professional support and are up-to-date with
guidance so that they can give families consistent and constructive feeding advice.
Debbie said: “My role is to educate and empower staff to ensure that they are all trained to
the same standard, so they have the confidence to support mums and their families. We used
to say breast is best but informed is best. We want parents to have the correct, evidencebased information so they can make informed decisions.
“Breastfeeding can be difficult and some people do struggle. We are here to ensure that
journey is as stress-free as possible. It’s not just about breastfeeding, we also want to make
sure we are giving parents the right, unbiased advice about formula feeding.”
One mum who has already benefitted from Debbie’s support is Meryl Laisney.
Debbie helped Meryl overcome breastfeeding challenges experienced with her son, William,
now three and gave her help and guidance in advance of the birth of her second child
Florence. Now four months in, Meryl says the support she received from Debbie has meant
that her breastfeeding journey the second time round has been ‘really easy’.
Meryl said: “I feel really fortunate to have received this support from Debbie. When I was
pregnant with my little girl, I was worried that I might have a similar journey again. Debbie
met me before the birth and was able to show me some techniques so my supply could kick
“I remember her saying, it is a skill you and baby need to learn. She gives you so much
support, empathy and patience to inspire you to keep going. I often describe Debbie as the
breastfeeding oracle. What you need as a mum is that consistent support. It is important to
have that advice for women at an early stage if they are having struggles.”
The Births and Breastfeeding Profile 2022, which was published last month, shows that 65% of
mothers were breastfeeding at six to eight weeks after birth – the highest recorded
percentage between 2011 and 2022. In comparison, 49% of mothers in England were
breastfeeding six to eight weeks after birth.
Debbie said that she wants to build upon last year’s breastfeeding success.
She said: “There
are many benefits for breastfeeding for both mum and baby. Initiating early breastfeeds which
are exclusive until the baby is six months of age and continued until the age of two or beyond,
together with the initiation of baby-led weaning, promotes good long-term health and child
wellbeing. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by reducing the risks of developing ovarian and
breast cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”
As part of her role, Debbie will also be responsible in helping Jersey prepare for assessment
under the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. The Baby Friendly Initiative is a programme
designed by UNICEF to help empower parents to build close and loving relationships with
their babies and to make feeding choices which support optimum health and development.
Jersey, began working towards this accreditation in June 2018 and achieved level one in
The Island is due to be assessed for level 2 in September 2023 and hopes to
gain level three accreditation by the end of 2024.
In working towards levels two and three, Debbie will provide staff with structured training and
assessments of skills to ensure they are working to clinically set standards of breastfeeding.