With this year’s National Breastfeeding Week focusing on the theme of breastfeeding support, we are examining innovative ways to support parents in their feeding choices.

In the Better Start Southend areas, maternity and children’s services are working together with the voluntary sector to plan services in collaboration with parents and we will be testing variations in services and learning what works and what doesn’t.

Eight out of ten mothers in England stop breastfeeding before they want to. The recent World Breastfeeding Trend Initiative UK report, published in November last year identified a key gap that many mothers lack access to skilled breastfeeding support. So if mothers aren’t getting support from skilled and trained volunteers or professionals, where is their support coming from?

Sue Ashmore from The UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative believes that: “For breastfeeding to work, you need someone to turn to who believes it’s important and believes you can do it”. We are looking at how to make this happen for our families and provide support and information.

Sensitive conversations during pregnancy, skilled help after birth, on-going guidance and social support are all needed to enable mothers to feel confident and breastfeed successfully. With this in mind, a peer support programme is being developed, and will be tailored to the needs of the community. Our co-production team will be listening to families to understand what help they feel they need, and designing services accordingly.

A survey of 500 mothers commissioned by Public Health England found barriers to breastfeeding included;

  • Fears it could be painful (74%)
  • Concerns it might prevent them taking medication (71%)
  • Embarrassment when feeding in front of strangers (63%)

Providing support for mothers by changing attitudes and culture, including removing barriers to breastfeeding in public places, is essential. Sometimes this already has statutory support. For example, did you know that it is illegal for anyone to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place, such as a café, shop or public transport?

Breastfeeding gives babies the best start in life and it comes with a whole host of benefits for the mother, too. Anxiety about breastfeeding in public certainly shouldn’t be a barrier to breastfeeding in general. There are opportunities for Southend to be a welcoming public environment, so that women feel comfortable breastfeeding in public and in the workplace.

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Article published June 2017


  1. Elsa says:

    Having breastfed two children over 6 months each, I think the peer support initiative is fantastic and would love to volunteer.

  2. Better Start says:

    That’s wonderful Elsa, thank you. Our project lead for this area, Gill, will be in touch with you either today or tomorrow about this.

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