05 May

Move in May: our Community Champions experiences so far

Our community champions have got off to a strong start with being active for 30 minutes every day in May.
Here, Cara and Jessica share what they have been up to with their families over the first week of Move in May.

‘We are four days in to Move in May and I am loving the conversations it is prompting in our house, particularly with my four year old. We have been speaking about the importance of moving our bodies and getting fresh air.

Most of the time he is very keen to get involved but, as you can see, he does get tired occasionally!’

– Cara

So far my first week is going ok. Since me and my little one had Covid 3 weeks ago, my energy levels and my mental health have taken a big dip and suffered a lot. This is also another reason why I wanted to take part in Move in May, it’s amazing how even 30 minutes of activity can all help with the recovery process.

On Sunday 1st May, me and my little one had an hour dance-athon to 80s music in our living room as the weather was rather miserable. Then on bank holiday Monday, I decided I would try out my new weighted hula-hoop and give my kids a good giggle. The next morning my hips were pretty sore but we managed a 2 hour walk along Port Solent and Portchester Castle which really helped with clearing my head. There’s something about walking and just listening to the sounds of birds, water etc. that’s so therapeutic. 

I’m looking forward to more activities and plenty of walking over the next few days and weeks and what’s best is I get to do it all with my little teddy

– Jessica

If you haven’t yet started Move in May, or haven’t signed up, there’s still time to join us! By signing up, you’ll get access to our exclusive live-stream workouts as well as weekly emails, updates, tips and more! 

Register here

03 May

5 ways to keep motivated for Move in May

As life gets busy, things can get in the way of your best intentions. Motivation can dip when there are lots of other priorities and getting going can sometimes feel like the hardest thing to do.

We wanted to share with you a few tips to help keep you motivated during May, so you can move for 30 minutes every day and feel healthier, physically and mentally.


Do it early in the day

Often, our days seem to get busier as they progress, even if we are ticking things off our to-do list. It’s easy to be knocked off track with unexpected situations or when things get busy, especially if you are working, looking after children, housekeeping or running errands. One way to ensure you keep up your activity during May is to do it earlier in the day.

Maybe you could leave the car at home and walk to school or perhaps you could walk the long way home after dropping the kids off.

Or why not book an early swim session at a local swimming pool one weekend – everyone can take part in burning off some energy and you’ve got the rest of the day to spend together doing whatever you fancy.

Be prepared the night before

After a long day, it can be easy to fall straight into bed without thinking of the next day. Benjamin Franklin once said ‘“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You definitely won’t be failing by falling into bed tired, but it can help to get some things ready the night before to make the next morning run smoothly. Here’s some ideas of what might help:

  • Decide on your clothes and get them out of the wardrobe (especially key if you are going to work out early, putting gym clothes on triggers your brain that you are going to exercise).
  • Make your lunch / family lunches the night before so it’s ready to grab the next day.
  • Pack your bag / change bag / work bag with everything you need. Anyone else run around each morning trying to locate purse/wallet, keys, charger, laptop etc.?
  • Write a list of 3 key actions you need to do the next day to keep you focused.

Set goals

When you want to achieve something, it’s been proven that those people who write it down as a goal are more likely to achieve it. It doesn’t have to be a big goal setting exercise with vision boards, purpose statements and long descriptions, it can be as simple as ‘Tomorrow, I will walk for 30 minutes’. By setting a specific, measurable goal, you are preparing your mind for what will happen.

If you want to, you could set goals each day or week, or an overarching one for the whole of May; different things work for different people.

Use a tracker

Once you have set a goal, you need to know how close to achieving it you are! For Move in May, we have created trackers for you so it’s easy to keep an eye on your progress. There’s a Milk Family tracker for children (or adults too – I know some of the BfN team are using it!) or a straightforward one for adults to use. By visually seeing your progress, you can be proud of how far you’ve come and look forward with positivity to the next steps too.

Take a look at our trackers here.

Get others involved

Have you ever noticed that when you do something with someone else, it’s often more fun? Take the same thought and apply it to Move in May! Here’s some ideas of how you can get others involved:

  • Message a friend to arrange a bike ride together
  • Organise a playdate at the local park and join in with the kids
  • Attend a local fitness class with your partner
  • Create a WhatsApp group with close family so they can encourage and support you

Even if they can’t join you every day, having someone come along side you (physically or virtually) can be a great support and motivate you to keep going through your challenge. We often show up and become more motivated when we know others have an interest in what we are doing.

If you need ideas of active things to do, you can take a look at our list of activities here.

Remember, you are amazing! Every time you choose to do something active, you are improving your health, getting fitter and you should feel more energized (good old endorphins!).

Not registered for Move In May yet? Click here!


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21 Apr

Say hello to our Community Champions

As we get ready to Move in May for 30 minutes every day, we wanted to introduce you to our community champions who will be taking on the challenge too.

They will be lacing up their trainers and sharing their experience throughout May while taking part in the challenge. The ups and downs, wins and challenges, along with some fun images so you can see what they have been up to and be inspired!

They are not fitness professionals or experts, they are mums wanting to be active and healthy with their family. We think they are pretty amazing! 

Cara

I’m Cara. I live in north-east Scotland with my partner and two kids who are 4 and 4 months. I work for BfN but am currently enjoying my maternity leave. I always try and take part in Move in May and find it makes me feel so much better, mentally and physically.

Louise

I’m Louise, I live in Sandwell with my husband and our 6 year old son. Like most of us, my activity levels increased in the Pandemic, I began to look forward to my once a day walk but as the world started to open up a little more I got busier and my activity levels dropped again. I decided to be a Move in May Community Champion this year to regain some of that activity back, and to (hopefully) inspire some others to do the same.

Jessica

I'm Jess from Portsmouth. I'm mum of 9 amazing children aged 21, 19, 18, 16, 14, 11, 8, 4 and 1. I've been involved with the BfN since 2019 and became a BfN supporter in 2021. I run a breastfeeding support group in my local area as well as supporting new mums via phone that have been discharged from hospital. I also volunteer on the NBH helpline and social media page as well as offering zoom support. I'm taking part in the Move in May challenge as I want to give back to the community as well as raising awareness of the work BfN do.

Why not join our community champions and take part in Move in May yourself? 

By signing up, you’ll get access to exclusive live workouts, tracking sheets, weekly emails and tips to keep you motivated!

21 Mar

World Down’s Syndrome Day: Breastfeeding a Baby with Down’s Syndrome

Sarah is the breastfeeding lead for Positive About Down Syndrome, as well as a volunteer supporter for BfN and the National Breastfeeding Helpline, and mother to Zephaniah. Here she gives information about World Down’s Syndrome Day, and how to support breastfeeding a baby with Down’s Syndrome. You can read more of Sarah and Zephaniah’s story on Sarah’s blog, Chromosomes and Curls.

March 21st is World Down’s Syndrome Day. Its part of trisomy awareness month and the date 21/3 is significant to represent 3 copies of chromosome 21.

Each year has a theme and this years theme is ‘Inclusion Means’. What does inclusion mean to you? It often conjures up images perhaps of education/schooling/work place/friendship groups/clubs. However inclusion starts earlier than that at birth and one way to ensure inclusion for babies with Down’s Syndrome is by making sure families get the individual support they need when it comes to their feeding choices. For families who want to breastfeed they can often face negativity right from the offset. Many parents report being told by medical professionals that babies with Down’s Syndrome cannot breastfeed or probably won’t be able to, which along with not being correct, can be hurtful and damaging the breastfeeding relationship. 

For supporters, there is much that can be done and be considered in order to facilitate an inclusive feeding journey for families. Here are some tips when supporting families who have a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

  • Say congratulations! In the same way you would congratulate any new parent. Don’t say things like ‘I’m sorry….’ ‘Oh no….’
  • Make a safe space for the parents. They may have had a prenatal diagnosis and have had weeks or months to adjust to their unexpected news, or they may have found out postnatally, so whilst promoting positive language, it’s important to let them safely sit in their feelings which could range vastly from parent to parent. Avoid leading with intrusive questions around whether the family had any prenatal testing unless they raise it and want to talk about it of course.
  • Back to basics. As with any baby start with position and attachment. Along with some issues that may occur as a result of the baby having Down’s Syndrome, the baby and mother will still face the same challenges as anyone else so those should be worked on and eliminated first. Often the usual challenges are overlooked and then blame is placed on the baby having Down’s Syndrome. This is called medical overshadowing. 
  • Language matters. Avoid using the terms ‘downs baby’. Within the Down’s Syndrome community a person first language is preferred so ‘a baby with Down’s Syndrome’. Also avoid making generalisations about babies with Down’s Syndrome as with any baby/child they are their own person. There are some fantastic language cards available at https://www.languagecreatesreality.com
  • Recognise that it can in some cases take longer to establish breastfeeding in a baby with Down’s Syndrome and sometimes there is a journey involving tubes, bottles, pumping etc before transitioning to feeding directly from the breast and some people continue to use expressed breast milk. It often takes up to 3 months to establish feeding directly at the breast and I’ve seen it as late as 6 months.
  • Familiarise yourself with common issues that babies with Down’s Syndrome face such as low muscle tone, tiredness etc.
  • Make sure the baby’s red book has the correct Down’s Syndrome insert with the separate growth chart to avoid any concerns over weight gain. 
  • Have signposting information to local or online support groups available. It can often be a lonely and confusing time and from experience families sometimes feel alone and isolated, so to have someone to signpost them at this stage is so valuable. 

Here at Positive About Down Syndrome we have created a lived experience leaflet sharing peoples breastfeeding stores. You can find that here 

https://positiveaboutdownsyndrome.co.uk/breastfeeding/

We also have support groups on Facebook for expecting and new parents. 

Pregnancy: https://www.facebook.com/groups/dsukpositiveaboutdownsyndromegreatexpectations/

New Parent: https://www.facebook.com/groups/padsnewparents/


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20 Jan

Happy New Year from the Breastfeeding Network

By Shereen Fisher, CEO

The start of a new year is often filled with feelings of opportunity, optimism and excitement for what the new year will hold. Although times are still uncertain as we enter 2022, here at the Breastfeeding Network (BfN), the new year gives us a chance to look ahead and focus on helping even more families with their infant feeding journey.

 

We already have lots of exciting things planned for 2022 but our recent strategy meeting with the BfN Directors is helping us think and plan about priorities for the future.

There are quite a few things coming down the track that we would like to tell you more about, we are:

  • re-designing and developing a new BfN website. This will ensure it is easy to navigate, with the most visited information visible first, technologically up-to-date and fit for purpose moving into the future.
  • mid-way through an external evaluation of the National Breastfeeding Helpline, working with academics from UCLAN – thank you to all the NBH volunteers and volunteers on the language lines who are supporting the field work.
  • rolling out a newly-developed course for professionals more widely this year, a course that focuses on doulas, midwives, health visitors and other health professionals – it is endorsed by OCN.
  • launching a package of training specifically for GPs, with more information announced later in 2022.
  • revamping our ‘Friends of BfN’ and ‘Friends of Drugs in Breastmilk’ schemes with more membership options, benefits and involvement.
  • looking to build capacity within the Drugs in Breastmilk Service – which has now transitioned to volunteer pharmacists – by running another dedicated training course.
  • hosting another Annual Conference later on in 2022 for our peer supporters and partners, to celebrate our work and all the volunteering that makes such a difference to families.
  • delivering against the promise of our inclusion and diversity action plan, now updated with learning from the equality and inclusion survey – to roll out dedicated supervision plans to volunteers.
  • using the learning from the supervision survey to bring in a number of changes in discussion with supervisors and the board, to improve the supervision environment within BfN.
  • setting up a BfN expert panel to help oversee information development guided by an information policy.

 

At the end of last year, we launched a new peer group service in Shropshire which will continue to grow this year and we are looking forward to delivering a peer support service in Southampton from April 2022. We are also looking at other areas where groups could be facilitated or commissioned by health trusts – if you are interested in working with BfN in your NHS trust then please do get in touch!

 

We are also very pleased to welcome Hester Schofield as the new National Breastfeeding Helpline Manager and Tahira Tabbasum, Finance Officer (maternity cover).

 

Of course we will be continuing all of our usual activities:

  • Peer support groups continue to run in a variety of ways, from face to face groups, 1-1 support, walking groups, online groups and messaging services. There are a number of locations throughout the UK with groups available; a great place to get support, ask questions, meet new friends and feel part of a community.
  • The National Breastfeeding Helpline is open every day to provide support and information to anyone needing assistance with infant feeding.
  • Our Drugs in Breastmilk service is still hugely popular and will be continuing its vital work providing information via social media support and email. We are often updating our drug factsheets when new or relevant information is published and we regularly update our coronavirus page with any recent developments.
  • We continue regular training sessions for professionals, peer supporters and volunteers who work with BfN in supporting new parents and families with infant feeding.
  • Supporting and developing relationships both local and national with Government, Public Health and third sector to ensure we can work as collaboratively as possible to strengthen the outcomes of babies.

 

In 2022, we aim to continue going from strength to strength as we support all parents, families, health professionals and key partners. 

26 Oct

Budget 2021: the pledge for breastfeeding support

“Spending money in the early years generates massive cost savings for the future and nowhere is this more true than in breastfeeding support.” says Shereen Fisher, Chief Executive for the Breastfeeding Network.

The government’s announcement to spend £50 million on breastfeeding support is recognition of the contribution breastfeeding makes to preventing obesity, improving public health and offering the best start for life for babies. Importantly the early years report setting out the case underlines the value of ‘peer support’ as a model to help support women, parents and families with breastfeeding and cites long-established services such as the Breastfeeding Network’s Tower Hamlets and Islington services, where there is close integration with health care teams and professionals.

It’s positive news, and a solid start to help improve parental experience and enable choice in infant feeding. Shereen says, “I am keen to see the detail in how funding will be used to ensure breastfeeding support is offered to families alongside other early years services.”

Tracey Murkett, Breastfeeding Network Service Manager, Tower Hamlets, says:

“The dedicated breastfeeding support offered in Tower Hamlets is highly valued by local families. The feedback is overwhelmingly positive, with the immediate emotional benefit of peer support often highlighted. However, the availability of appropriate breastfeeding support is a postcode lottery in the UK – this funding needs to change that.”

The full Budget is due to be announced this Wednesday (27th October 2021).


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09 Oct

Guest Blog: The story of a grieving mother – written 3 weeks postpartum.

Content warning: baby loss/stillbirth/lactation after baby loss. There is a photo at the end of this post.


You spend time preparing for them. Studying childbirth, hypnobirthing, breastfeeding, harvesting colostrum, bouncing on the birthing ball, helping encourage baby into the correct position, buying all the essentials you require and all the ones you desire. 

When I heard those words – there is no heartbeat – my world fell apart. I did not expect to find joy in the days that followed and yet I did. 

Upon hearing those words you enter a whole new world of information – there are new rules. 

Rules I did not study – trusting the health professionals around me to educate and guide me. Trying to digest what I could while adjusting to navigating this new landscape. 

I was 39 weeks pregnant, having regular false starts to my labour and desperate to meet my baby soon. Unable to walk far with pelvic girdle pain and all the usual aches and pains you get in the third trimester, I was ready. I was harvesting colostrum just in case – my first son had to go to special care at birth, missing the golden hour and having to agree to formula if required. While donor milk is now available, expressing helped give me a purpose. I was preparing for my baby in every way I knew how. 

While we knew that we had lost our baby – he still had to be born and the drug options were slightly different than what we covered in my antenatal class. While I was induced the amazing midwives did what they could to keep my labour as non medicalised as possible. I discussed my wishes to be mentally present – knowing how precious meeting my sleeping baby would be and my pain relief options were discussed in relation to my needs. 

I should add that the second you lose your baby – you get 5 star treatment. Everyone wants to help in any way they can but no one can bring your baby back so they give you all the comfort and support they can. Thanks to the charity Simba and the staff’s amazing fundraising the labour rooms are amazing and kitted out. 

Some women say they prepare more for birth than the baby. This was so true for me. It also feels cruel to birth a baby who you know you have lost – however this process was extremely cathartic for me and I was able to heal some wounds from my previous labour. 

I expressed the wish to save some milk to make into jewellery – as a memento, perhaps with a lock of his hair. A kind midwife suggested I could express drops of colostrum and put them onto R’s lip as a gesture. I was keen not to miss any opportunities and make all the memories I could.

Other midwives were concerned that expressing would encourage more milk to come in – how would this affect me and could it cause mastitis?

I also got offered some medication to help suppress my milk –  not being in a place to think straight, my friend advised me to check the side effects. We had learnt the BRAIN acronym in antenatal class and unable to decide I stuck to the N for ‘do nothing’. Breastfeeding my firstborn had been such a challenge and I was so convinced I would be better educated this time. Whether to suppress my milk with meds was the first real CHOICE I could realistically say no to. 

I was hesitant to take any drugs I didn’t have to. I had just spent 9 months nauseous so why would I take a drug that I didn’t have to with that side effect? 

My caregivers were concerned – a postpartum Mum grieving her baby with her milk coming in. Would that be too much? I knew my boobs though – oversupply was not a problem I had previously had. I also wasn’t afraid of milk. 

In the days that followed I expressed small amounts and had the support of a BfN mothers supporter and other midwives, who reminded me babies feed 12 times a day. Expressing once a day was not going to cause big problems. Expressing my milk felt good, I was and am so proud of my body. This was the right choice for me. 

Sadly I was unable to donate to the milk bank due to my medication but I know some other mothers who have successfully donated following baby loss and found great comfort in this. 

There are lots of firsts I have missed out on with my baby, but the precious memories will stay with me forever. Breastfeeding creates a bond between mother and child and by producing milk I was able to fulfil part of my mothering need.

Hannah Inman


This guest blog by Hannah Inman was posted as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week 2021.

If you or someone you know needs support with lactation following the loss of a baby (whether choosing to express milk or stop the supply), the following links may be helpful:
https://www.llli.org/commonly-asked-questions-about-lactation-after-loss/
https://kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mother/lactation-after-loss/

Alternatively you can call the National Breastfeeding Helpline, where our trained volunteers can offer support and information.

27 Sep

#BfNConf21 Guest Blog: Breastfeeding, Peer Support and Perinatal Mental Health

Smita Hanciles writes of the need for more cohesive support encompassing breastfeeding and perinatal mental health services. For more on this subject, come along to the BfN virtual conference on 2nd October, where Smita will be giving a presentation. Click here for full details and tickets.

Up to 20% of new and expectant mothers experience a perinatal mental health (PMH) problem. Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common, affecting 15% of women. However, these figures pre-date the pandemic during which women and their families faced extra pressures on their mental health, including anxiety about giving birth during lockdown.

In January 2016, the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health outlined plans that led to an expansion of specialist community PMH services to work with women experiencing moderate to severe illness.  In February 2019, the NHS Long term plan built on this commitment with the aim of ensuring that women in all parts of the UK have access to specialist community services and inpatient mother and baby units and extending service provision up to 24 months after birth.  It is hoped that by 2023/24, at least 66,000 women with moderate to severe PMH difficulties can access care and support in the community.  This will account for around 10% of women giving birth.  However, some women experiencing difficulties may not disclose symptoms, others may not reach the threshold for referral to these services and even those that are referred may need continued support when they are discharged. Peer Supporters could provide crucial support to these women especially when integrated within universal services.

All women will be feeding their babies regardless of their mental health status and will have feeding assessments carried out by maternity and health visiting services and some will access peer support services for help with breastfeeding challenges or social and emotional support. What role do these services play in supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of mothers?  A recent evaluation of the Camden Peer Support service showed that parents reported improvements in emotional wellbeing when receiving breastfeeding peer support even when this was only available via online groups and video calls. Peer support reduces social isolation which is a risk factor for mental ill-health and it also provides listening support and a safe space where women may disclose symptoms or talk through difficult birth experiences. 

If feeding difficulties are playing a part (as is often the case) in how a mother is feeling, then resolving these issues may also be helping to prevent escalation of symptoms of anxiety and depression in new parents.  But the often-complex interrelationship between infant feeding and perinatal mental health is frequently overlooked as services supporting each have developed quite separately from one another. There can be a perception in PMH services that breastfeeding will add unnecessary pressure and hinder recovery from perinatal ill-health, or staff may want to help protect breastfeeding when it is important for the mother to do so but lack the training and skills to enable this. Multi-disciplinary teams within PMH services now include 8 new roles including Perinatal Peer Support workers with lived experience of perinatal ill-health but there are no specialist or peer support roles that focus on Infant Feeding. 

Perinatal Peer Support workers are also being recruited as part of Maternal Mental Health Services that are being set up to integrate maternity, reproductive health and psychological therapy for women experiencing mental health difficulties directly arising from or relating to the maternity experience. Support will be provided for PTSD following birth trauma, baby loss or fear of childbirth and pilot schemes are underway to build the evidence base and identify replicable models. Could this be an opportunity to pilot the impact of including access to specialist infant feeding and breastfeeding peer support within these services? Increasing numbers of women are living with the painful emotions that come with trying very hard to breastfeed but failing, usually due to lack of timely and consistent support.  Any attempt to promote breastfeeding where so many have been failed by an inadequate system is like trying to cross a field littered with mines. Information will be perceived as judgement or pressure and any celebration of breastfeeding could re-trigger painful and traumatic memories. As there is a move towards implementing a more trauma-informed approach to care in the perinatal period, it is necessary to recognise that healthcare teams and peer support workers can potentially exacerbate their own birth and breastfeeding trauma histories when supporting families which can create unconscious bias. How do we build supportive structures for individuals providing care to those experiencing distress related to breastfeeding difficulties and perinatal mental ill-health?  How do we diffuse the emotional land mines to make way for meaningful discussions about the need for investment in Infant feeding support and training across all services that women access in the perinatal period?


If you’d like to see Smita’s presentation (and much more!) at the BfN Conference on 2nd October, please click here for information and tickets:
https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/2021agmconference/

#BfNConf21


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14 Sep

Dr Wendy Jones: Drugs in Breastmilk

One of the founding members of BfN, Dr Wendy Jones MBE has been supporting breastfeeding families for more than twenty years. As she heads towards her retirement, she reflects here on her time with BfN, and will give a presentation at our virtual conference next month.


Twenty-three years of providing information and support on the compatibility of medication in mother’s milk has brought about many changes, not least in expert sources available. This past year has brought many challenges for women, particularly when not able to see medical professionals face to face. So often mothers forgot to mention that they were breastfeeding, and doctors forgot to ask when prescribing over the phone.

The Drugs in Breastmilk information service was able to fill in those gaps on so many occasions. There was also a difference in the questions mentioning anxiety and depression (already one of the most common questions) increasing further. COVID and isolation affected us all. Not having the simple meetings where breastfeeding issues are normalised were missed opportunities for mutual support. I know because my daughter had a lockdown baby and as clinically vulnerable myself I wasn’t able to be there to support. FaceTime isn’t quite the same although still invaluable.

But over the past few months I have been joined by a new team of wonderful pharmacists (all registered breastfeeding Helpers) who can share the responsibility of the high volume of social media contacts. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop resources on my own website (www.breastfeeding-and-medication.co.uk) and Facebook page, whilst supporting the dream team on WhatsApp when needed. I’m also going to enjoy more time with my family – two and four legged.

No two days answering questions on the safety of drugs in breastmilk are the same, but everyone matters because behind it is a mum trying to keep her baby safe.


If you’d like to see Wendy’s presentation (and much more!) at the BfN Conference on 2nd October, please click here for information and tickets:
https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/2021agmconference/

#BfNConf21


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25 Aug

Black Lives Matter: how the Breastfeeding Network is working to tackle racial inequality

To coincide with Black Breastfeeding Week 2021, BfN CEO Shereen Fisher gives an update on our ongoing work to tackle racial inequality.

The Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 shone a spotlight on the world of racism within UK culture and institutions, leading to worldwide protests to end racial inequality. BLM combined with shocking information coming out on the deep inequalities that exist within our maternity systems for Black and Asian Women through the MBRRACE Report, have caused many charities involved in supporting parents to think about whether our services really are meeting the needs of all parents, babies and families.

This is true for BfN and this blog seeks to state our progress against our published statement that we shared in 2020 in response to BLM and in solidarity against racism.

Here is that statement again:


Black breastfeeding matters

We stand alongside all Black mothers and families, and are willing to do anything we can to ensure mothers and babies get real change for the better.

At the heart of BfN’s values is empowerment of women, and none of us can feel empowered if we are raising our children with threat from racism.

As a charity we have always believed in social justice for mothers and babies, but often we have felt limited in what to do, in part due to our own ignorance – which is our responsibility to correct.

We hear our fellow Black mothers and families and we are committed to doing more – using our core values of empowerment, empathy and actively listening.

We are committed to learning and educating ourselves.

We will share and amplify Black women’s voices.

We are here for you.


Since we made that statement, what have we done?

Nearly a year on from publishing the statement we have already published an update on our progress against an agreed action plan (the previous update can be accessed here). So, this update you are reading is our second and we will continue to keep you apprised of our progress.

For the second year we will provide monetary support to the organisers of Black Breastfeeding Week, we will encourage peer supporters to access training organised during this week and at other times that challenges thinking and supports their skills to support all families. We will continue to promote and raise awareness of the FIVEXMORE campaign in our communications and work.

Following a listening exercise with our own peer supporters we have heard first-hand about the experience of being a peer supporter in BfN and the additional challenges for peers from Black and Asian backgrounds to feel that their experience is represented. While generally being part of the BfN family is overwhelmingly positive we can see deficiencies in some of our group dynamics and limitations in our knowledge and skills reflected in our training.

So, this has led us to review our training materials with some help from an external organisation. We were pleased to see that only a small number of changes were needed so far but we acknowledge that the adjustments to our training content and inclusion of examples will have made a big impact for peer supporters who may have not seen themselves reflected in the experience and knowledge we were conveying. A commitment to ongoing review with the right representatives will help ensure our training and approach to support reflects diverse experience.

Our goal is to be a charity that is able and committed to supporting ALL families and for ALL families to feel comfortable and safe accessing our support, training, volunteering and working for us. This is at the heart of our work and we know that we can only truly achieve it by becoming a more representative and diverse charity.

Going forward, all BfN information will be developed and reviewed by a panel reflecting the skills and lived experience of parents. We hope to have the panel set up by the end of this year.

Guided by the insights from the volunteer working group, Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority peer supporters from BfN, and colleagues from BRAP, we have mapped the areas and actions that we want to work on. This has informed our plan to roll out training for key staff and peer supporters within our network, starting with our Tutor and Supervisor group. This programme of training is ongoing and includes training of BfN Directors this summer. The training for Directors seeks to help BfN’s trustees develop a greater understanding of what it means for BfN to be anti-discriminatory in its practice and discuss the role of leaders in developing and leading an organisation that is committed to culture change.

While progress had been made to engage younger mothers with lived experience of breastfeeding on the Board as Directors, there has been a clear lack of diverse ethnic representation on our Board of Directors for some time. In November 2020 we were pleased to welcome two new board members – Ernestine Gheyoh Ndzi and Joy Hastings – and there is an ongoing commitment to ensure strong representation on the Board to support effective decision-making. Since then we have undertaken another round of recruitment and we are pleased to welcome a further 3 new Directors to the BfN Board soon, reflecting the skills and lived experience that BfN needs to govern.

In respect of our workforce and volunteers we know that BfN attracts a diverse range of candidates for jobs but we need to do more work to see if the people who get offered jobs are also representative and diverse. In July 2021 we launched our first employee survey which will provide an important benchmark to help inform planning and recruitment going forward.

We are committed to diversity and inclusion being on all agendas – wherever we meet we will actively discuss and invite feedback and learning on diversity and inclusion. This includes our Board, manager meetings and meetings of our project leads, tutors and supervisors.

Our communications team do and will continue to ensure that our values around diversity and inclusivity are publicly demonstrated.  This covers our newsletters, all social media channels, blogs, campaigns and printed materials.

Externally, we see the potential for the positive impact to come through our openness to partners and willingness to work with others. In late 2020 we joined a collaboration made up of several other organisations including Oxford Breastfeeding Support Group, ABM, GPIFN and others to build an open resource of images depicting different clinical issues of the lactating breast represented on different skin tones. The issues of a lack of diverse images have been highlighted by Nekisha Killings ( Nekisha Killings on Breast Assessment and Non-White Skin Tones | GOLD Learning 2020 Speaker – YouTube) we hope to be able to collectively support the progress and availability of ‘Spectrum’ in the near future.

What happens next?

We are committed to taking lasting and ongoing action and progressing our plans publicly. The Board approved action plan on inclusion and diversity reflects ongoing commitment and progress in this area.

We are grateful to the many peer supporters in BfN from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic backgrounds who took the time to talk with us about their lived experience of our support, training and volunteering. We welcome any other feedback, especially where you think we could do better. Please contact us ceo@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk


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