Gill O’Connor, Infant Feeding and Breastfeeding Development Coordinator:

Southend Supports Breastfeeding

In late June, A Better Start Southend (ABSS) in partnership with Southend Borough Council launched the ‘Southend Supports Breastfeeding’ scheme. The scheme was born when members of the Kursaal Ward panel identified a need for mothers in Southend to know where they could feel welcome and supported when breastfeeding their babies out and about.

It was found that research nationally also supported this view, that many women also give up breastfeeding sooner than they want to and over one third of women have reported feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed breastfeeding in public spaces.

Parents’ views provide valuable insight when designing ABSS projects and a well-attended workshop sparked lively debate and lots of ideas about how such a scheme would work. This co-production ethos has worked particularly well to progress the scheme and parents and professionals have worked together to make this a successful launch. The scheme also aims to encourage a cultural shift by normalising and supporting mothers to confidently breastfeed in public throughout Southend. The aim is that the scheme will roll out to shops, cafes, leisure centres and transport services – indeed any public place.

Organisations that participate will display a ‘Southend Supports Breastfeeding’ window sticker to let mothers know that they are welcome to breastfeed there. The logo was designed and approved by parents involved in the co-production project that SAVS (Southend Association of Voluntary Services) is running for A Better Start Southend. Local business that would like to participate can ask to sign up by contacting Sabrina Kerr on 01702 212804 or SabrinaKerr@southend.gov.uk. A registry of all the signed up organisations will be available for mothers to access in a variety of ways.

By working together with our partners including Turning Tides volunteers and Environmental Health, A Better Start has already begun to sign up venues across the borough. Libraries and museums are already on board and some health centres, but importantly The Royals Shopping Centre was the first to sign up to the scheme and offer their support. It was acknowledged that the centre was thirty years old and facilities were a bit tired and in need of refurbishment and so a solution has been found. The Royals will be putting together a proposal for a ‘pop up’ area for breastfeeding mothers located within the centre which will offer much improved space and facilities. The aim is to include parents in the design of the area to inform how this will look in practice. This community venture demonstrates how successful an idea can be when it progresses with the good will and partnership between the local community and business.

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