17 May

BfN Position statement on APPG on Obesity report May 2018

On 15th May the All Party Parliamentary Group on Obesity launched its report on the current landscape of obesity services.

Front+page+of+obesity report

 
With overweight and obesity costs in the UK estimated to be at least 27 billion every year and recent headline news that obesity is poised to overtake smoking as a key cause of cancer it is no wonder that national leaders are championing for change’, said Shereen Fisher, CEO of Breastfeeding Network who attended the event in Parliament.

 
She said, ‘We agree with the report’s key recommendation that “A national obesity strategy for both adult and childhood obesity should be developed and implemented by the Government, with input from key stakeholders. This should look to strengthen existing services and replicate best practice across the country. However we were disappointed to see there is no mention of how babies are fed anywhere in the report despite recognising “One in five children are already overweight or obese before they start school”’.

 
There is a wealth of evidence about the importance of breastfeeding, support for responsive bottle feeding and timing of starting solid food and the difference this can make to both child and maternal obesity levels.

 
A full list of studies related to obesity and breastfeeding can be found on the Unicef Baby Friendly site here (infant health): https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/news-and-research/baby-friendly-research/infant-health-research/infant-health-research-obesity/ and here (maternal health): https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/news-and-research/baby-friendly-research/maternal-health-research/maternal-health-research-obesity/

 

The Obesity report recognises that: “There needs to be a co-ordinated, whole-system approach to the prevention of obesity at both the local and national level considering the impact of the environments in which people live, including the total household income, as well as the amount and type of food they consume.” and so there is clearly understanding that how infants and children are fed has both an immediate and long term effect on their health.
With the role of the Obesity APPG being to consider prevention through to treatment for obesity it is vital that the evidence for nutrition and the role that breastfeeding plays is considered and understood. The long awaited SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) draft report ‘Feeding in the First Year of Life’ will provide important review of the evidence affecting nutrition useful for the work of the APPG on Obesity.

Last year the Government published its childhood obesity strategy. The top line in this was the soft drinks industry levy. The Breastfeeding Network would like to see the Government go further in taking action to implement the recommendations of the Obesity APPG AND include evidence and support for breastfeeding which will go a long way to support better health outcomes for women and children regardless of their backgrounds.

With the effects of obesity disproportionately centred on poorer children and families the important role of breastfeeding, which offers the same health and emotional benefits to all babies regardless of background, needs important attention in any future obesity strategy that cares about narrowing inequalities‘ says Shereen.

 
While focus on the problem of pervasive junk food advertising at children and families is important we must not ignore the role of early years nutrition from pregnancy and beyond. As a recent tweet said ‘…the problem of obesity begins long before a child is able to eat crisps’.

10 May

‘BfN helped me through some tough times’

Loisa Hayward is one of the runners in our Mum’s Milk Run. This is her story.

Loisa running for BfN‘I am running the 20km Mums Milk Run virtual race for the Breastfeeding Network to help raise funds to keep this amazing and much needed organisation going.

I am a mum of a beautiful 14 month old girl who I have proudly breastfed since birth. No one told me how tough it actually was to do what is supposed to be a perfectly natural thing for your baby. There were so many times at the start of our journey that I said enough was enough and it was time to stop. But it wasn’t the choice I wanted to make, I wanted to keep going.

We had a ventouse delivery which gave my little girl pain when feeding on a particular side, which led to three initial bouts of mastitis in about 8 weeks. We also had nipple blisters, lack of confidence in feeding out in public, and poor latch (due to prematurity). It was very painful to feed at the start.

The Breastfeeding Network offered support, information and understanding. I was never coerced in to thinking bottle or breast. I was given the space and time to make my own decision and they helped me with that. They helped with positioning, techniques and with allowing me to feel compassion for myself and what I was trying to do.

Going to the group helped me feel reassured that what I was going through was normal for some women and that camaraderie got me through the hard times. What I have found so helpful is the local Facebook group which has gotten me through some very long nights, huge self-confidence issues, and all the other little bits that come up that completely throw you if you haven’t breastfed before.

The atmosphere of the group I attended was very relaxed and friendly. I remember turning up for the first time and my baby girl had a nappy explosion in her car seat; I’m a first-time mum and this sort of thing used to really throw me in to a wobble, but even this non-breastfeeding related issue was taken in its stride as just one of those things at the group, which instantly put me at ease. The volunteers were absolutely lovely, kind and empathetic.

Breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I am so happy that I made it through all of the tough early days, the endless nights, the tears and tantrums (from both mum and baby), and all of the happy bonding memories too.

The BfN were a big part in my continuation of breastfeeding my baby. I want to do something to give back to this voluntary organisation by raising some money to help them train more amazing volunteers who give that community support to all parents.

If you would like to sponsor Loisa, please visit her Just Giving page

 

04 May

Breastfeeding was my lifeline while struggling with PTSD

I could barely hold the funnel to my breast. My hands, swollen and numb grasped as hard as they could, my body weak, hardly had the strength I needed to do this. I lay there, on the hospital bed, the noise of the machines sending me into a trance like slumber. Slowly the small drops of precious milk appeared, glistening in the light that flooded my room, and I felt relief relax my body. I closed my eyes, this, this was my lifeline, this was what was keeping me alive.

My baby lay in neonatal, she felt like a million miles away, this was all I could do, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t hold her or care for her, but I could do this, I could give her my milk. So, while my arms ached, the pain making my fingers tremble, my ravaged and traumatised body fought to give me what I needed, I would do this for her, for me.

While on HDU and then when I was well enough to go to the postnatal wards, pumping for my daughter became my lifeline. It kept me alive, because deep down I truly believed I was dying, so I would stare at the clock and will myself to live just a few hours longer, so I could pump again and provide another feed for my baby. It became my mission, my goal to live till the next time I had to express, and it felt like the last gift that my failing body could give her. The staff tried to make me stop, telling me that with the massive blood loss and a haemoglobin of 4.1 it was pointless. They told me I would never make any milk, let alone enough to feed her just breastmilk, but I wasn’t giving up that easy. I cherished every drop that my body gave me, like it was a magical potion that would keep my baby safe. Even after I was found unconscious in my room and at the brink of death, all I could think about was I needed to live, just a little longer to express my milk, I had to do this because soon I would be gone, and this was all I could do, all I could give her of me.

Every syringe, I sent to the unit was full of love, I couldn’t be there, to tell her I loved her, but my milk was like a message in a bottle. So, I would beg for the pump and even fetch it myself. It was such a sight, me in my wheelchair trying to also wheel the pump down the ward, but I was determined nothing would stop me. Gradually as the days passed my supply increased. It felt like a victory. I would prove them all wrong, I would do this, just wait and see.

As soon as I was well enough I would wheel myself down to the neonatal unit, placing the small bottles containing my milk, in the pocket of my dressing gown next to my heart. It was like carrying the most precious jewels, bringing my baby her gift. As I watched the nurses fill up the syringe and feed it through her nasal gastric tube, my heart would beat so fast, fit to burst. I had done that, I had provided her with what she needed, no one else just me. I was giving her life, giving her what she should have had from me, had she still been inside me, had my stricken body not failed her six weeks too soon. I would not fail again. My body would come good this time and provide her what she needed. As I looked at her small and fragile in the incubator, I willed my body to hold out and to keep going.

Soon my supply was increasing, and the nurses were amazed as I kept bringing down bottles full of milk. As my baby grew stronger they asked if they could start giving bottles, so they could wean her off the NG tube, but I made it clear that I wanted to feed her from my breast. Again, I was told we would never achieve breastfeeding but that I could try her at the breast and then they would offer her a top up in a bottle. However, this wasn’t good enough for me, we would prove them wrong again, because I knew that she could get this breastfeeding lark, we just needed time.

When I held her to my breast I felt calm, and safe. The terror went away, and the fear eased.

So, after two weeks I was discharged from the ward and my mission now was to be at the unit 24/7. The staff agreed to leave in the NG tube while I was trying to establish breastfeeding so that they could top up feeds if needed. So, I basically moved in. Every moment I could, I placed my tiny baby to my breast. It was terrifying, I had no idea what I was doing, she still had wires everywhere and the machines would beep and go crazy, but slowly I found a way to hold her and she would open her tiny mouth and latch. It filled me with the most amazing feeling, to know that I was caring for my baby this way. When most of her care was out of my hands, this was something I could do.

After two nights in the chair next to her cot, the staff knew I was going nowhere and I was given the tiny room on the unit that was only big enough to contain a bed and a tiny sink, but I was so grateful. I was just about able to walk very small distances, so it meant I had a place to rest at night till I was called to her bedside. I was watched by the staff like a hawk, and she was weighed daily. Many times the staff and family suggested I be kind to myself and take it easy and add in some formula. They said she wouldn’t gain weight as fast on breastmilk and it would take longer for us to go home. But I was determined and so was my little baby. She worked so hard, and she would open her eyes and gaze at me like she was willing me on and telling me she could do this.

So, it began, my breastfeeding journey, my lifeline. When we both finally went home, 5 weeks after her birth, my baby was fully breastfeeding, to the amazement of the staff. Together we overcame a traumatic, premature birth that nearly cost us both our lives, massive blood loss that should have robbed me of my milk and transitioning to fully breastfeeding when no one said we would. Even when we got home it wasn’t easy and we battled oversupply, awful colic, mastitis and tongue tie. But together we made it; for 15 months I fed and nourished my baby and she thrived, she put on weight and despite me being told to expect her to be behind in developmental milestones, to everyone’s amazement she was instead ahead. In fact, my little girl, even though only tiny, was walking at nine months.

For me breastfeeding kept me alive. On the days I lay in hospital when I had no idea if I would make it, I lived to express for my baby. When I went home, when I was battling flashbacks and nightmares from the birth, when I was scared and worried about my baby, breastfeeding was my lifeline. When I held her to my breast I felt calm, and safe. The terror went away, and the fear eased. Close to me, she was mine, I could protect her, nothing could harm her or take her from me. My body that had failed her, was now keeping her alive once more, giving her everything she needed. It was also saving me, keeping me from losing myself to the terrors that sought to take over my mind. In the night, when I woke and heard her crying, I could run to her, take her in my arms and place her to my breast, unlike all those nights in hospital when I couldn’t be with her, couldn’t care for her.

While everyone tried to get me to stop they didn’t understand that it was a vital part of my healing from birth trauma and also that it was helping me while struggling with undiagnosed PTSD. It was so important to me, my vital connection to my baby but also helping me to cope with everything that we had been through. It was my journey that years later moved me to train with the BFN so that I could offer others the support that I didn’t receive. To help other Mums like me who wanted to breastfeed and so they too could experience the joy I had. Those early weeks were hard, and I know how much I would have valued having someone by my side to offer encouragement and hope.

I now support others who have had a traumatic birth. It’s so important that we understand how birth can impact on maternal mental health and breastfeeding. That we listen and support women in their choices giving them accurate information and support, but also that we understand the emotional side and how kindness, encouragement and just being with them can make such a difference.

For me breastfeeding was a beautiful gift. It is a gift that I cherish because it was a battle no one said we could win. But win we did, and I will forever be grateful for the fact that we achieved what was seemly impossible, given all the odds – a lifeline in the darkest of times.

Emma Sasaru

Emma is a mother to two beautiful daughters. Her passion is to improve support for women and their families that have experienced birth trauma, had a premature baby and the difficult journey of neonatal. She is also a volunteer breastfeeding supporter with BfN.

Twitter: @emmajanesas

Beyondbirthtrauma.com

Finding breastfeeding support

Getting help with breastfeeding, at the time you need it, is really important. We know the relationship between breastfeeding and mental health is a complex one. Whatever our decision is to feed our little one, and however our mental state is affected during this time, we should expect to feel supported and respected in our feeding decision, and with our mental wellbeing. We are here to offer all families independent, non judgemental support with breastfeeding for as long as they choose.

Please don’t be afraid to ask for help. BfN Registered Volunteers want to help you with breastfeeding. It is why they have done training and offer their time.
Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212

You may not need to venture beyond your front door to get breastfeeding support. BfN Registered Breastfeeding Supporters are trained to give support and information by telephone.

Drugs in Breastmilk Information Service

For enquiries in relation to taking medication whilst breastfeeding contact our Drugs in Breastmilk team.

Find a Drop-In Group

It can be helpful to get face-to-face help with breastfeeding and to meet other breastfeeding mums. There may be a Breastfeeding Drop-In Group in your area that can help you do this (we list groups on our website where there is a BfN Registered Breastfeeding Volunteer attending). Also it can be really helpful to have someone who knows about breastfeeding to sit with you as you feed your baby. If the person helping you can be there from before you start  a breastfeed until your baby has finished feeding, this is most helpful. The drop-in group can help you with this or you can ask your midwife or health visitor if they are able to do this.

Your local Infant Feeding Co-ordinator, Community Midwife or Health Visitor may have details of local support. Their contact details  might be in the discharge pack you were given when you had your baby. If you live in England or Wales you can find contact details for your nearest maternity unit on the NHS Choices Website.