A message to all health visitors

I know that health visitors do an important job. I know that they play an important role in helping babies and toddlers get the best start in life, spotting problems, befriending struggling parents and being at the front line of child protection and child health provision.

I know this. And I value it and wouldn’t wish them away at all.

But I do wish that they wouldn’t offer such ridiculous and unnecessary advice sometimes.

My friend’s little lad is almost nine months and a big boy. A really big boy, around 98th percentile. He’s breastfed and contented and happy. He eats solids, sometimes enthusiastically and sometimes not. But his poor mum is now worried about her boy following a visit to the health visitor. She said that he wasn’t eating as much solid food as he should. He needs to eat more she said. Try giving him cake, chocolate and sugary snacks she said. You should stimulate him by sitting him in front of the tv more she said.

What? I’m sorry? What is the problem that she is attempting to solve here? He’s happy, healthy, eating solids and drinking milk and certainly not wasting away.

I’m glad that I developed a pretty take-it-or-leave-it approach to health visitor advice quite early on. Probably about the time when Bub was three months old and a health visitor suggested I give him solids when he dropped from 75th to 70th percentile at a weigh in. Gee, thanks HV. He’s three months old which is before even the four month mark at which baby food companies can legally advertise solids. He’s a big lad and he’s doing fine. So no, actually, I don’t think I will start him on solids three months before the age recommended by the NHS. And so I ignored her and the next time he was weighed he’d jumped up to 75th percentile again. Some very useful web forums like the baby led weaning forum also helped me to take HV advice with a pinch of salt as so many mums shared their not so great HV experiences.

So please, health visitors, focus on what you do best – providing a vital safety net for mums and babies who really do need your help. And when you see a mum who’s doing their best and a baby who’s generally ok don’t make life harder for them. Don’t give advice where all you’re doing is making a mum worry. Don’t push babies to confirm to one standard model. Learn to step back and say ‘You’re doing a great job, just keep following your instincts, your baby looks fine!’

Thank you.


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One Response to “A message to all health visitors”

  1. Joanna Says:

    Sugary snacks?! TV?! my god. what a ridiculous person. That’s made me so angry. I’ve had friends with horrendous stories about ignorant HVs, luckily I haven’t experienced any but that’s just appalling. Great post and good reminder.

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