60 seconds with… Shel Banks

1. Tell us a little about you.

Hi, my name is Shel Banks, and I live in Lancashire. I have three children and I work part time in the NHS as well as having a private practice seeing new families in person across the northwest of England and North Wales, and online all over the world. I also have a small business offering training for health professionals and running classes for families and health professionals in my local area on various infant feeding and baby care topics. I have been working supporting new families since 2001. I am a member of the committees of many national bodies working in infant feeding, including the Breastfeeding Festival, UK Association for Milk Banking and Lactations Consultants of Great Britain as well as the Local Infant Feeding Information Board.

2. You are really passionate about educating people on breastfeeding and colic/reflux issues etc…What got you interested in the first place?

When I was starting my own family I realised that although I was already 30 and had enrolled for all the Parentcraft classes available locally, bought lots of books recommended by friends and family, and read things online, I was really ill-prepared for parenthood! Once my first child was born and I found myself alone in the hospital trying to figure out feeding, I felt the midwifery staff meant well but were busy and did not seem to know how best to support me, so once home I started to get more informed and soon began supporting others online and in local groups. I then recognised what real families were really concerned about was as much about learning what normal babies do and what is NOT normal, and so I figured out how to improve families’ wellbeing by educating and supporting them. By the time my family was complete I had begun to study for the International Board Certification for Lactation Consultants, and happily I qualified in 2010. This is the world’s highest qualification in infant feeding expertise.

Over recent years in addition to supporting breastfeeding mums to feed comfortably and educating health care professionals and expectant families about all aspects of infant feeding, I have started to work with more and more families whose babies are unwell or unhappy, perhaps not gaining weight or suffering with allergies or colic and reflux symptoms. Through my continuing research and working with other experts in the field, I have begun to assemble a way of providing individualised information and support to these families, to reduce symptoms and improve outcomes.I am passionate about this because in giving the RIGHT evidence based information and providing the right kind of support, I truly believe we can improve the lives of our nation’s families, now and into their futures.

3. Can you tell us a little about what publications you are currently working on?

Over the past 2 years a guideline development group in the UK put together by the National Guideline Alliance has been working on NICE Guideline on Faltering Growth in Infants and Young Children. I have been part of this group since the beginning and happily we have recently finished our work on the guideline, which is due to be published in October 2017.

An international team has been working on a Cochrane Systematic Review on Dietary Modifications for Infantile Colic which I’m just putting the finishing touches to, and this is due to be published later this year. I’m working on a further two Cochrane Reviews on Infantile Colic (one around prevention and one around management via parental education) which are not yet ready for publication.
I have also been commissioned to write a book on formula feeding, which is due out later this year.I have previously been involved in writing NICE Guidance for Donor Milk Banking and NICE Quality Standards for Postnatal Care.In 2011 a group of us were involved in writing the Statement of Strategic Intent for Infant Feeding, and this went on to form a central part of planning for the design of infant feeding services in many parts of the country.
I write for www.LIFIB.org.ukandwww.LCGB.orgas well as being lead author of the Breastfeeding Policy in the hospital where I work.

4. What is the most challenging part of your job?

The most challenging aspects are both to do with time: managing the 7 or 8 job roles I have at any one time takes some clever diarising and often results in my really needing to be in more than one place at once; and because there are so many families who need the right information and support, I know I cannot get to them all myself so I recognise the massive value in spreading the good information and support techniques out for others too, through training and writing.

5. What is your proudest moment?

Well I have to say that when thinking about answering this question, as a Mum of three I immediately went to THEIR achievements and how proud I am of them in their own ways and their own ‘aceness’ – but this question was about me so I think I would have to say that over all I am proud of the way I have decided what I want to do in life, and working to make it happen. I’m thrilled to be working now with BabyEm who really seem to share this philosophy!

6. What is one piece of advice for newly qualified maternity nurses?

A good Maternity Nurse can be like the friendly neighbour, experienced older sister or wise aunt that we all might have had around us in previous communities. If you undertake this role with a good grasp on the evidence base and an even better grasp on how to communicate effectively, you will be able to inform, support and empower the new families you work with so that they get their little ones’ lives off to the very best of starts possible. It’s an amazing opportunity!

A good Maternity Nurse can be like the friendly neighbour, experienced older sister or wise aunt that we all might have had around us in previous communities.