07 Oct

20th Anniversary Conference live blog

We’ll be live blogging the conference throughout the day here, scroll down and see the live updates below. Here’s the programme so you know what to look out for:

09:30-09:45 Shereen Fisher (CEO) Opening remarks and welcome
09:50-10.35 Dr Amy Brown  

Who really decides how we feed our babies?

10:40-11.25 Dr BJ Epstein  

Supporting LGBTQ families

11:25-11:45                                                          Break
11:50-12:30 Dr Katie Hinde, supported by Professor Sophie Scott What we don’t know about mothers’ milk – video, pre-recorded keynote speech, microbiome, followed by Q&A session.
12:35-13:05 Dr Kirsty Darwent The Infant Feeding Genogram: A tool for exploring family infant feeding narratives and identifying support needs
13:05-13:45 Lunch: including an informal session with Lorna Hartwell and some other founder members looking back at the early days of BfN – sharing their memories and taking you back to where it all began 20 years ago!
13:50-14:50 Small group discussion/training sessions  

Dr BJ Epstein – Supporting LGBTQ families

Lynn Timms – Tongue-tie: how can YOU support these babies with their feeding?
Dr Kirsty Darwent – The Infant Feeding Genogram: Supporting Women and Families in Practice
Walk and Talk – a walk (or run) round Birmingham city centre while chatting about mental health and breastfeeding #RunChatCake
14:55-15:35 Mairi Hedderwick Author & illustrator, Katie Morag (banned artwork)               – The Fuss Katie Morag caused
15:40-15:50 Felicity Lambert  

The National Breastfeeding Helpline Awards

15:50-16:00 Shereen Fisher Closure
04 Oct

Mothering the mother – a vital part of increasing breastfeeding rates 

Amy BrownDr Amy Brown is Associate Professor in Child Public Health at Swansea University. She is also the author of Breastfeeding Uncovered, a book which aims to highlight normal breastfeeding, challenge barriers and call on society to support breastfeeding. She will be the key note speaker at our conference on Saturday, and has written this guest blog for us ahead of her speech.


“Mothering the mother is a phrase often heard during pregnancy and birth. Look after the mother, care for her, support her emotional needs … and she will feel more empowered to grow, birth and care for her baby. A phrase (and actions)  that makes so much sense and is seen in many cultures across the world.

But might this form of love and care also be a key part of increasing our breastfeeding rates too? Of course, education, guidance and support directly about breastfeeding are vital parts of ensuring new mothers are knowledgeable and equipped to breastfeed. But if we really want to stand a chance of making this work, we must look outside of breastfeeding too.

Having a baby is hard, especially the first time. It is life changing and can be so overwhelming. Suddenly you have a brand new person to care for who is reliant on you for all their needs. And they communicate this well – after all, if they didn’t they wouldn’t survive. We aren’t baby giraffes who can get up and walk shortly after birth; we are entirely reliant on our caregivers for warmth, protection and food. Our babies need us, and we are hardwired to need to respond to them.

But as normal and natural as it is for babies to want to be kept close, this can understandably often feel exhausting and all consuming for new mothers. Many have gone from having freedom (and lots of sleep) one minute to having a baby who wants to feed often, chat at night and certainly doesn’t want to be put down. It can feel like all they do is hold, soothe and feed on repeat. Many weren’t prepared for it and start to worry that something is wrong. Might feeding him again create bad habits? Am I spoiling him? Is he manipulating me? What is this rod for my back people keep talking about?

But babies aren’t broken. They can’t manipulate. And it’s impossible to spoil them. In fact responding to, caring for and simply loving a baby is one of the best things you can do to ensure your baby grows into a happy, confident and loving adult. But society doesn’t recognize how valued just sitting and feeding your baby should be. Get your life back it shouts! Get back to work! The gym! At least get out of the house… and what about your poor partner? You must keep them happy too! And whilst I mention it … have you seen the dust? Your home isn’t looking like that celebrity new baby spread is it … oh and those nails… how on earth haven’t you managed to fit in a manicure? Priorities…

New mothers don’t need to get their lives back. That old life has gone and a whole new world has begun. But what they do need is support. In many cultures mothers are cared for and looked after for at least 6 weeks after the birth. Their meals are cooked, the housework is done and they are nurtured and supported. It isn’t a coincidence that rates of breastfeeding are low and levels of postnatal depression high.  Meanwhile when I recently googled ‘six weeks rest after the birth’ I got back a series of articles on avoiding heavy exercise.

In Western culture mothers often don’t have that support after the birth. Many live hundreds of miles away from home. Families are smaller and dispersed and many grandmothers will be working. Mothers are now often left to care for their babies alone, which we are simply not designed to do. No wonder the frequent needs of a baby feel overwhelming, especially for breastfeeding mums who might feel they do nothing but feed, day and night. And that’s before the pressure to get back in shape and regain your social life comes into play.

Unfortunately industry has jumped on this vulnerability and recognized a gap in the market for isolated, exhausted mothers looking for a solution (and a good nights sleep).  Despite the fact that research shows that breastfeeding mothers often get more sleep overall, the subtle and not so subtle messages coming out of formula promotion are that it will help your baby sleep (nope) or that someone else can feed the baby (missing the fact that they rarely want to do this at 3am). But these messages are pervasive and you can see why many an exhausted mother considers a bottle at that 3am feed. Unfortunately many make this move, it doesn’t affect sleep and they can feel even worse.

But it’s wider than just messages to move to formula. Baby care books promise to get your baby into a sleep and feeding routine and countless devices are arriving on the market promising hands free feeding or to rock your baby to sleep for you. These products are not the answer. Following a strict routine for feeding is linked to stopping breastfeeding, often due to problems with milk supply, as it interferes with everything we know about the importance of responsive feeding for building a good milk supply.  It’s unsurprising that routines often don’t work and sadly leave many mothers feeling even worse than when they began, even tipping them into postnatal depression.

So what is the solution? Simple. We need to care for our new mothers better. Mother them. Love them. Invest in giving them the time and support they need after the birth and throughout those early months and years. Think wider than breastfeeding and ensure that new mothers are as rested, supported and yes, cherished, as much as possible.

Work with partners and grandmothers where possible to explain why new mothers need to be mothered and what that might look like. And no, it doesn’t look like a bottle, even though that might seem like the perfect solution when your partner or daughter is exhausted and desperate for a break. Do some housework. Cook her a meal. Sit with her. If she’s happy to let you, take the baby for a walk between feeds, perhaps in a sling – but always check first. Separating her from her baby might make her feel anxious.

To really make this work though government must step up and ensure that mothers, babies and families are truly invested in. After all, they are our future and ensuring the best possible start in life reaps rewards for all of us. Mothers (and partners) need and deserve extended well-paid maternity and paternity leave and flexible working on return. Promote the importance of men taking time off and being there for their partner. No one should need to go back to work for financial reasons when they are still nourishing and caring for a baby.

Where family cannot be there, invest in creating networks and support groups for new mothers. Enhance access to doulas and invest in high quality support from professionals throughout pregnancy and after the birth, from professionals who have the time to sit and support. Caring for mothers should be seen as a public health responsibility and not something that simply happens if they are lucky.

Having a baby will always be life changing and exhausting but it needn’t be so overwhelming to the point where breastfeeding feels incompatible. With the right support and investment we can nurture a generation of new families and show them just what a valuable role they play. And with it, create an environment and support network that really supports new mothers to breastfeed. Mother the mother and she has the time, energy and peace of mind to get breastfeeding off to the best possible start.

27 Sep

Banned! Images of breastfeeding in a children’s story book.

Mairi HedderwickMairi Hedderwick is the author of Katie Morag, a children’s book and now CBeebies children’s programme about a small girl’s life on a Scottish island. In this guest blog post, she talks about her experience including images of breastfeeding in the Katie Morag books.

‘When I created Katie Morag in the early ‘80s my indulgence was to celebrate our early family years in the Hebridean island of Coll, with all the highs and lows of family life in a small remote community sans electricity and mains water, daily activities so conditioned by the weather. Oil lights and water from the well no longer feature in Katie Morag’s island, which has rightly come into the 20th century. But her relationships, especially in her family, are timeless.

I had been an illustrator for many years, learning how to enhance other’s text. With limited text for my first picture storybook I created visual subplots full of detail for the reader to explore and question. In the third book Katie Morag and the tiresome Ted, all about sibling rivalry on the arrival of a new baby, I was a delighted to milk the opportunity to have the mother breastfeeding. I loved drawing the delicate pointillism surrounding her nipple.

Image of breastfeeding in Katie Morag

My editor at that time was nervous at such exposure but I insisted. She was proved right as several libraries banned the book from their shelves. But 27 years on, Mrs McColl’s breast is still there to be shared by all babies, toddlers, children, mums and dads. Even teenagers.

Over the years, I have been delighted that several breastfeeding organisations have used the image, and others, for publicity. Several surgeries in the Highland region in Scotland display posters with Katie Morag, the new baby and ‘the breast’. Katie Morag is very proud.’

Mairi Hedderwick, author of Katie Morag

Mairi Hedderwick will be speaking more about her struggle to include images of breastfeeding in her books at the 2017 Breastfeeding Network conference and AGM. To book your tickets please visit our website

Mairi Hedderwick has also designed some special Christmas cards for The Breastfeeding Network’s 20th anniversary, featuring breastfeeding images from Katie Morag. All proceeds go to The Breastfeeding Network. To buy them please visit our online shop.

22 Aug

Can a man breastfeed? Supporting breastfeeding LGBTQ families

Dr BJ Epstein is Senior Lecturer in Literature at University of East Anglia and a Counsellor on our National Breastfeeding Helpline. In this guest blog post she talks about her experience breastfeeding in a two-Mum family.

Hand on topIf you’re a two-mum family, can you both breastfeed? Does your daughter get confused about whose breasts to latch on to? Is your wife jealous of your breastfeeding relationship?”

These are just some of questions that I’ve frequently been asked in the 34 months of my daughter’s life. Despite the obvious point that they’re rather personal subjects to discuss with people I often don’t know very well, the topic of breastfeeding and LGBTQ families is an extremely important one.

World Breastfeeding Week has recently passed, but the week is intended to raise awareness of issues surrounding the encouragement and support of breastfeeding all weeks of the year. Strangely, though, few people talk about supporting LGBTQ individuals/families with regard to breastfeeding.

You might think this is a very niche subject, but in fact more and more LGBTQ people are having children. Although figures vary, there are estimates that 1-10% of the population is LGBTQ, and that nearly 10% of LGBTQ people have children. That’s not an insignificant number. Considering how much thought and effort (and expense!) has gone into getting those children, LGBTQ families are often equally thoughtful about how to feed their babies. We need to know where to turn when we need help with breastfeeding, and we need to know we will be treated fairly and equally.

While many of the concerns regarding breastfeeding are the same for all families – what positions work? What if there’s pain? How much should the baby be feeding? How do you know if the baby is healthy? – There are some issues that are specifically relevant to LGBTQ people.

For example, can both mothers in a two-mother family breastfeed? What would be required to induce lactation? And how would that affect supply? And what if the baby was conceived through IVF? Does that affect breastfeeding? What if the breastfeeding mother wants to try to get pregnant again through IVF while continuing to breastfeed? And, also, if you’re talking to a two-mum family, should you call them both mothers or is only the one who gave birth the mother? (Here’s a hint: use whatever terms the parents want to use! And don’t judge!)

What about a situation where a trans man has given birth? Is he a “mother” or a “father”, a “she”, a “he”, a “they”, or something else altogether? (Again: employ whatever terms people use to refer to themselves!) Will a man be able to feed if he has had chest surgery? If he’s taking hormones, can they influence his milk supply? Should you even call it “breastfeeding” or might the man you’re talking to prefer “chestfeeding” or “nursing”?

In some LGBTQ families, donor milk might be used. Where can they find it? Is it safe? How do they use a supplementer system?

This is all quite practical so far. Then there are the more psychological or theoretical points. Is feeding a baby likely to induce or increase dysphoria in a trans man? Will one mother breastfeeding cause sadness in the other mother if she was unable to conceive or breastfeed herself? How will the men in a two-dad family feel about not being physically able to provide breastmilk for their child? Do LGBTQ families feel represented in literature about breastfeeding? Is someone’s queerness recognised and acknowledged by health professionals? Are they getting equal treatment from midwives, health visitors, doctors, and others?

These are just some of the things that LGBTQ individuals/families and those who want to support them on their feeding journeys need to consider. And yet there is little written about or for this group of people, and few breastfeeding support workers get education about it.

This needs to change. As all the events and publications that stemmed from World Breastfeeding Week pointed out, all families deserve knowledge and support when it comes to breastfeeding their children. We need to do better when it comes to LGBTQ families in particular.

Note: I’ll be speaking about this in more detail at the Breastfeeding Network Conference in October.’


27 Jun

Feeding baby out and about in the UK?  What’s the fuss?

Fact: Feeding your baby out and about is protected by law. In Scotland breastfeeding is protected by the Breastfeeding etc. (Scotland) Act 2005, which says that it is an offence to stop someone in a public place from feeding their child, if under two, with milk. The legislation allows for fines for preventing breastfeeding in public places.
In England & Wales this protection comes from the Equality Act 2010 (EA 10), which states that it is sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding.
Fact: Few people know the legal position. While the law is more explicit in Scotland, does it offer more protection?  We don’t yet know as the current EA 10 law has not been tested in court. All cases brought have been settled out of the courts. (Hogan Lovells, 2015)
What does this mean for parents breastfeeding out and about in the UK?  This could mean that although the law is protective, it has little cultural influence at a societal or individual level unless it is better understood and adhered to.
Fact: Many women are worried about feeding in public places. They are worried about feeling embarrassed, possible negative reactions from the public and the risk of confrontation.
Fact: Communities in the UK are generally not supportive of breastfeeding (Victora, 2016).
Fact: Worries about feeding in public are real for women and form a serious barrier to starting to breastfeed, or can mean a mum stops breastfeeding before she wants to.
Although infrequent, there have been several high profile cases of women being vilified in public for breastfeeding outside the home. The negative treatment of breastfeeding women in the media affects feeding decisions. One mum recently told me that her reason not to breastfeed was that she was worried about feeding in public; she had since questioned herself and felt guilty about her decision. She became less assertive as she reflected on her experience but I was sorry to hear her apologise for something that was not within her control.
Was her choice not to breastfeed based on freedom or the lack of it?  Who is responsible for that? The law? The media? Society? The influence of an industry that repeatedly and blatantly blurs the line between breastmilk and formula?
Many women tell us they worry that if they do decide to breastfeed they will end up isolated from their friends and family because they don’t feel welcome to breastfeed their baby when they are out and about.
So, you can understand any woman or concerned relative being worried that she might be treated badly, even though we know that breastfeeding happens all the time and largely goes unnoticed. Most women have a positive experience of breastfeeding, but this isn’t seen or shared with others. Only the negative stories make the press. Whether it’s just perception or reality, the worry stops breastfeeding happening.
We need to change the conversation about feeding out and about. This doesn’t mean pitching individual women against each other or suggesting women are more discreet or, indeed, by asking individual women to speak up alone for breastfeeding.
We collectively need to support communities to understand and value breastfeeding so it can be seen as just a normal thing to do. This is only achieved if we can bring it out of the closet or home and into the mainstream in an open and celebrated way. This requires conversations with others outside of the present breastfeeding movement.
We know what works. It is essential that breastfeeding protection and support is embedded in all maternity care and birthing facilities. This must be accompanied by consistent training of medical professionals.
Using a peer support model, through which women support each other, is a proven way for them to develop skills and confidence to rehearse breastfeeding out and about. This has a positive impact on breastfeeding choice and duration (Hoddinott 2006, Blake Stevenson 2016).
Designating places as breastfeeding-friendly is another way a community can act together to declare support for the value of breastfeeding, with the intention of changing local culture one place at a time.  The Breastfeeding Network has developed a scheme with information for parents, families, businesses and organisations to use. It is simple and accessible and can be used in a variety of contexts: single small businesses, retail parks or even airlines! The information is available for anyone who wants to help make places more breastfeeding-friendly by equipping them with information to help change the conversation around breastfeeding. The BfN scheme helps families feel confident breastfeeding out and about, offers communities and businesses a way to show that they welcome and support breastfeeding, and raises awareness about the benefits of and barriers to breastfeeding.
While some might see schemes like this as controversial or as a necessary evil, many women report positively that breastfeeding friendly schemes helped them cross the threshold from home to out and about and allowed them to see and feel that their community would support their decision to breastfeed their baby.
As one mother put it, seeing a breastfeeding friendly scheme in operation by a coffee shop owner made ‘…me feel like I was being held by my community while I was holding my baby…’.

Shereen Fisher, Chief Executive Officer, Breastfeeding Network
Useful resources and references
The National Breastfeeding Helpline (0300 100 0212), offers independent, confidential, mothercentred, non-judgmental breastfeeding support and information from volunteers with experience who trained by The Breastfeeding Network and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. Lines are open 9.30am – 9.30pm every single day of the year. Calls to the Helpline cost no more than calls to UK numbers starting 01 or 02 and are part of any inclusive minutes that apply to your mobile provider or call package.
Opinion on Breastfeeding Discrimination for Hogan Lovells International 2015
Hoddinott, P, et al (2006), One-to-One or Group-Based Peer Support for Breastfeeding?

Women’s Perceptions of a Breastfeeding Peer Coaching Intervention, Birth, 33: 139–146. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0730-7659.2006.00092.x/abstract

Unicef Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding: http://www.unicef.org/newsline/tenstps.htm

Breastfeeding Network: Breastfeeding-Friendly Scheme: https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/bfn-breastfeeding-friendly-scheme/

Evaluation of Breastfeeding Network peer support https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/evaluation/
Victora, Cesar G. et al (2016), Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet, Volume 387, Issue 10017, 475 – 490.

For further information contact Shereen Fisher, Chief Executive Officer, @shereen_fisher, ceo@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk

A version of this blog first appeared on the UNICEF BFI website in August 2016

04 May

Breastfeeding and maternal mental health

This week is maternal mental health awareness week and so it’s important that we speak up about the often misunderstood relationship between maternal mental health and breastfeeding. I hope this blog complements the fantastic offerings from Dr Wendy Jones’s live Facebook session in conjunction with the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, and information offered by Dr Louise Santhanam of GP Infant Feeding Network (GPIFN). Both the Facebook session and GPIFN website are must-reads to any breastfeeding mother who is concerned about her mental health (that’s all of us by the way) or indeed for dads, partners or grandparents or anyone supporting a mother. It’s also the week BfN have been told that there is no funding available to continue breastfeeding peer-support in Blackpool. Since 2007 Blackpool Star Buddies have helped thousands of parents, babies and families to breastfeed against the odds and it is disappointing that such a high-performing scheme is being forced to close. Yet, still feeling the glow of BfN winning Charity of the Year award at the Mama Conference 2017, I am trying to work out how to feel about these highs and lows that are hitting the world of infant feeding, the charity sector and parents and families who are seeing services declining.

For those of you who had never thought about the connection between breastfeeding and maternal mental health or those who aren’t convinced, please read on. For those of you who are well versed in this you may want to make a friend a cup of tea.

The relationship between infant feeding and mental health is complicated, not least because a mother’s pre-natal mental state, pregnancy and birth experience can all result in stress and trauma – all of which can influence how a mother feels about breastfeeding. In other words the cause and correlation between breastfeeding and mental health isn’t a tidy one – it’s complicated.

There can be a lot of pressure on mothers to breastfeed fuelled by the ‘being the best’ campaigns, only slightly softened by the addition of ‘be the best you can be’. We know that pressure is not good for mental health so let’s just stop this rhetoric now!

What you may not know is that evidence suggests that ‘not breastfeeding’ can significantly increase the risk of postnatal depression, particularly if a mother wanted and intended to breastfeed. A 2014 study of over 10,000 mothers found that those who didn’t plan to breastfeed and who gave formula from birth were significantly more likely to become depressed than those who planned to breastfeed and who did so exclusively for at least four weeks. The same study found that those who planned to breastfeed, yet were unable to do so were at a higher risk of postnatal depression. This research tells us that breastfeeding is important to women and that good support is needed for women who want to breastfeed, but also good support is needed for women who intended to breastfeed but who find themselves unable to do so. So why are breastfeeding peer support services being closed down?

Supporting mothers for over 20 years we at BfN know that establishing pain-free, comfortable feeding makes for a good breastfeeding experience. So, we have to break down the culture of silence around pain and offer mothers as much support as they need, especially on positioning and attachment (typical cause of pain can be poor positioning of baby at the breast). Pain and injury are not acceptable characteristics of breastfeeding – if you are experiencing pain, don’t suffer in silence – talk to a mum who knows about breastfeeding. Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.

Scientists are trying to understand the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal mental health. Some theories say that the act of breastfeeding supports the hormonal surges of both oxytocin and prolactin which encourage a mother to feel more relaxed and reduce anxiety. Also breastfeeding helps to regulate / reduce the body’s inflammatory response – depression is associated with inflammation.

We know that some GPs lack time, training and opportunities to support a breastfeeding mother who is experiencing issues with her mental health. GPs can lack knowledge on breastfeeding and often are not sensitive to the needs of someone who is breastfeeding, unwittingly overlooking the issues or value the mother places on continuing to breastfeed. So, it is important to encourage awareness and better training for GPs. Information for GPs is available through the GP Infant Feeding Network and through the BfN’s Drugs in Breastmilk Information service.

Perhaps most importantly we should all be listening to mothers carefully. They know their baby more than anyone else and their experience is informed by instinct and regular contact. If something isn’t going well for them they are the best people to explain the situation and they shouldn’t feel worried about how it is coming across. A non-judgmental approach is essential.

With services to support breastfeeding cut to the bone we are all going to need to understand breastfeeding better – partners, grandparents, friends of new mothers will need better information to offer support. It’s vital that we share information and research on the relationship between breastfeeding and maternal mental health.

Shereen Fisher is Chief Executive for the Breastfeeding Network @shereen_fisher


15 Dec

5 things parents need to know about shared parental leave

Shared Parental leave and breastfeeding – 5 things parents need to know…..

So, shared parental leave has arrived and you might be thinking about how to split your leave so you can both take time off work to look after your new baby. Shared leave brings many advantages and it is great for both mums and dads to spend time getting to know their baby during the first year. Of course, it can also bring challengesand how to balance breastfeeding and shared parental leave can be one of them, especially if you want to continue breastfeeding once mum goes back to work and takes the vital equipment with her!

shared parental 1

Here are 5 things we think it might be helpful for parents to know when they are talking about shared parental leave and breastfeeding

1. Breastfeeding offers great benefits

The impact of breastfeeding on both mum and baby’s health is considerable, not to mention the benefits to your bank balance and the environment (think less packaging waste and zero food miles!)

The Department of Health recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and encourages parents to continue breastfeeding, alongside solid foods, for two years and beyond (http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/About-Baby-Friendly/Breastfeeding-in-the-UK/Health-benefits/)

Of course, every family is different, so the important thing is to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding and how it might work for you so that you can make an informed decision about feeding your new baby.

2. Expressed milk is VERY precious stuff!

If you want to share parental leave and continue to breastfeed, then using expressed milk is probably part of the plan.

Expressing milk can take some practice, and both mums and dads will need to know how to store and transport it so that it can be safely used to feed baby.

Luckily, there is now a wealth of information online, answering all your questions about using expressed milk and offering some great tips about how to make expressing easier, particularly when mum will be working away from baby some of the time:(https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/breastfeeding-help/expressing-storing/ )

And when it comes to using the expressed milk, you will probably want to be careful not to waste any after all the time and effort that went into getting it! One good tip is to store it in small amounts so that if your little one doesn’t finish the whole bottle you don’t need to throw the precious milk away.

3. It’s about more than just milk (especially in the early days)

For both mums and dads, feeding is a great time for cuddling and getting to know your little one. Take the opportunity to sit down, have a rest and just enjoy your new baby. Whether you are breast or bottle feeding, you should try to keep the number of different people who feed your baby to a minimum so that your baby feels secure and has time to bond with you. There is something really lovely about that time with your baby gazing up at you, and it can even make the night time feeds feel special.

For mums, continuing to breastfeed once you return to work gives you a great way to connect with your baby at the end of the day by sitting down for a cuddle and a feed.

4. There are as many different ways to breastfeed as there are different types of families

If you decide to go for shared parental leave, it might mean that baby is brought into work for mum to feed them during the day, or that Dad gives expressed breastmilk in bottles or cups or mixed in with food at home (depending on the age of your baby).

Some mums are able to adjust their working hours in order to fit in with feeding, and this can work especially well once baby is older and not feeding so often. Sometimes a mix of formula and breastmilk can make things more manageable and enable breastfeeding to continue.

There are many ways that breastfeeding can work, so make use of the National Breastfeeding Helpline and the information available to help you decide what will work best for you.

5. Start talking to your employer about returning to work and breastfeeding as early as possible

The easiest way to share parental leave and continue to breastfeed is probably for mum to take the first part of the leave to get breastfeeding well established, but if that doesn’t fit with your plans there are always other ways to make it work.

Speaking to your employer as early as possible gives you lots of time to discuss what support you might need. At the moment there is no legal right for breastfeeding mums to have breaks to either feed their baby or to express and store milk, although the ACAS guidance suggests that this would be ‘good practice’. http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/j/k/Acas_guide_on_accommodating_breastfeeding_in_the_workplace_(JANUARY2014).pdf  http://www.maternityaction.org.uk/wp/advice-2/mums-dads-scenarios/6-breastfeeding-rights/

You can also point out to your employer the benefits of enabling you to come back to work and continue to breastfeed. Evidence shows that supporting mothers to keep breastfeeding when they return to work increases employee morale, improves recruitment and retention figures, and reduces child illness, which in turn may have a positive impact on employee absence.

shared parental 2

Where to find more information

If you want to breastfeed and share your parental leave, there is plenty of support available:

The National Breastfeeding Helpline (0300 100 0212) is open every day 9.30am-9.30pm to offer non-judgemental, evidence-based information from trained volunteers who have breastfed their own children. They can offer information about breastfeeding and returning to work and what you might need to think about depending on the age of your baby and support to decide what will work best for your situation.

We also have lots of information on our website (www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk) and there is somehelpful advice aimed specifically at dads here:http://abm.me.uk/breastfeeding-information/dads-and-breastfeeding/

Written by Sarah Edwards, The Breastfeeding Network