02 Aug

Why does academic research have an important role in protecting breastfeeding?

Anthea Tennant-Eyles, Research Lead and Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

New research published here by Cardiff University and The Breastfeeding Network highlights inequity of access to breastfeeding support for families across England and Wales, a pattern of decreased funding since 2015 across England and loss of funded peer support training across Wales. One peer supporter describes changes to local support as ‘a skeleton with all the flesh removed’.

Click here to read the full report.

This research looks at data from local authorities, CCGs, health boards, infant feeding leads, peer supporters and service-users on breastfeeding support services. The need to value breastfeeding support (including peer support) at all levels has been a key finding.

World Breastfeeding Week 2021 has a fitting theme ‘Protect Breastfeeding: a shared responsibility’.

Good practice of this has been reported. One Infant Feeding Lead describes a maintained level of funding, with BFI accreditation, a staff team to support the infant lead role and a peer support service that is ‘fully integrated and offers comprehensive very high level support across all areas of maternity and health visiting services.’

High-level investments are needed across England and Wales to ensure that there is equity of access to breastfeeding support.

One peer supporter noted, “it was different in every local authority or health board … it was a post code lottery … until after you had your baby, you didn’t really realise how much that mattered in terms of what support you would get”.

So why is academic research on breastfeeding so important?
To inform policy makers on the importance of providing dedicated breastfeeding support services to local families and that services are protected for the well-being of future generations.


This time last year, we published a joint statement with a number of other organisations, expressing our concern at the fragility of infant feeding support in the UK, exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, not a lot of progress has been made towards remedying this situation in the past year, and this new report only serves to highlight the continuing need for change. We stand by our statement and are still calling on the UK government to work towards reducing health inequalities and improving provision of adequate breastfeeding support for all. You can read our original statement here:
https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/2020statement/


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02 Jul

What Breastfeeding Looks Like: Diverse, Inclusive, Supportive

Images courtesy of @decuirinducinglactationstory, Gosia, @adaptiveparentproject, Kimberly, @nina_tame, @hamofcydonia

Do you see people who look like you on our website or in our social media posts?

As a charity, we are constantly striving to be as inclusive and diverse as possible in our content, as part of our commitment to offer support to all families, regardless of their age, disability, gender, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. But we are painfully aware of how homogenous images of breastfeeding can be. In the top 20 results of a Google image search for “breastfeeding”, there was just one image that did not appear to depict a White family; just one that showed a same-sex couple; none at all that appeared to show families with a disability (though of course we appreciate that characteristics such as disability, gender and sexuality are not always visible).

We want to change this. We want to support every family, and we know that we are much more likely to achieve this if we reflect as many of you as possible in the imagery we use. So as part of our ongoing work to make our charity more diverse, we’re appealing to all of our followers to help us build a bank of authentic and truly inclusive breastfeeding images for use in our communications.

We want to see what breastfeeding looks like for you, in your everyday life, so we can better reflect the wonderful diversity that we know exists among breastfeeding families.

We would welcome a variety of image styles – for example:

  • While it would be lovely to see your face, if you’d rather remain anonymous and be cropped out, that’s fine too.
  • There’s no need to show a bare breast or nipple if you don’t want to, in fact it can be great to show how discreet breastfeeding can be!
  • We’re not looking for clinical “textbook” images, in fact quite the opposite. So don’t worry about turning your photo into a demonstration, we’d much rather see the human, everyday side of breastfeeding.
  • Your photo does not need to be perfectly styled or staged – it would be great to see real life, so if there are toys strewn around or washing drying in the background, so be it.
  • It can be helpful to show that breastfeeding doesn’t always have to take place in a comfy chair – so photos of breastfeeding out and about or in interesting or unusual locations would also be great!

We would particularly welcome images of:

  • Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic or interracial families
  • Breastfeeding with a disability (whether this is a parent or child)
  • Parents in same-sex relationships
  • Trans parents
  • Younger parents
  • Breastfeeding older children, or tandem feeding
  • Breastfeeding alongside those people who have supported you to breastfeed – for example your partner, a grandparent, a friend, or a peer supporter.

How to contribute

If you’d like to contribute, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Complete the image consent form here.
  2. Email your photo as an attachment to wbfll@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk. You’ll also receive an automated email to remind you, if it’s easier just to reply to that. Please do not send your images without completing the consent form first.
Win a BfN Coffee Cup!

You’ll also have the chance to enter our prize draw to win one of five lovely BfN coffee cups – full competition rules available below. If you’d like to enter, just tick the box when you fill in the consent form. The winner will be announced at the end of the appeal.

Once collected, we will share all of the images in an album on our Facebook page, and then they will be featured on an ongoing basis in our social media posts, on our website and in some printed communications. More details on how photos may be used can be found on the consent form linked above.

If you have any questions about the project, please email wbfll@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk.

We’d also be grateful if you’d share this appeal with any other breastfeeding families you know. Thank you!

#WhatBreastfeedingLooksLike

Prize Draw Rules

  1. No purchase necessary. Any purchases made do not increase your chance of winning.
  2. Completing the consent form stating that you’d like to enter the draw, then emailing your photo, is the only way to enter. Likes or shares on social media posts relating to this competition are not a condition of entry.
  3. Competition opens on 02/07/2021 and closes at midnight on 31/08/2021. Entries received after this time will not be entered into the competition.
  4. The winner will be chosen at random after the closing date.
  5. This competition is being run exclusively by the Breastfeeding Network (BfN), and is not endorsed, sponsored or administered by Facebook, nor is Facebook associated with this competition.
  6. Five winners will each receive one BfN-branded reusable coffee cup. There is no alternative prize.
  7. The Breastfeeding Network (BfN) reserves the right to publish your image(s) as part of our online or social media promotion of this competition or others in future, or for other marketing purposes as stated on the image consent form.
  8. This competition is void where prohibited.
  9. The Breastfeeding Network (BfN) is committed to protecting any personal information that we collect.  Your personal information will be collected for the purpose of this competition only. You can read our Privacy Notice here. 
01 Jul

Inclusion & Diversity Survey – a message from Shereen

I want to share with you some new information and ask for for the support of our staff and volunteers in completing a new survey.

First, many of you will be aware of the work BfN is doing to be more inclusive and support diversity with the goal that we would want to be able to genuinely support anyone who needed the charity’s help.

While our focus has been on race prompted by the Black Lives Matter Movement, we have also given attention to disability and cultural/religious issues and our work in these areas will continue.  We are also very much aware of the need to give care, consideration and respect to parents who need our support but who do not identify with the traditional gender categories.

Most recently this has prompted early conversations around choice in use of pronouns and also enquiry into our understanding of how our training and support translates to people who chest feed.  What has been stand out from those conversations, is people’s willingness to want to be able to support anyone who needs our help but perhaps there being some hesitancy or worry as to how to do this without causing offence.

To help here the BfN team have compiled some information including links that you may find useful to help build your knowledge.  We will also be considering training for key members of the team and staff in BfN and of course we will develop this information. Here is the link: https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/genderdiversity/  

Second, as a peer support charity our aim is to be as representative of the mothers, parents and families we support across our board, workforce and volunteers.

However, at present we have no comprehensive way of knowing how diverse or inclusive we are as a charity in respect of our workforce and volunteers so we would like to undertake an annual survey of our staff and volunteers to understand this better.

By knowing this we can see where the gaps are and look to address them.

The survey is voluntary and confidential and will proactively seek consent as we understand the data we are asking is both sensitive and personal.

We urge as many staff and volunteers as possible to complete the survey by 31st July 2021 to help us understand your needs better and take action to make reasonable adjustments that address the visible and invisible barriers people face.

Only with this information can we be truly proactive to make sure people of different backgrounds, experiences and identities feel welcomed, respected and fully able to participate.

If you are a BfN volunteer or member of staff and have not received an email inviting you to complete the survey, please email centralsupport@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk to receive a copy.

With thanks for your support for BfN.

Best Wishes,

Shereen
Chief Executive Officer
The Breastfeeding Network

30 Jun

Drugs in Breastmilk Information Service: Update

BfN’s plans to support Wendy Jones’s retirement came to fruition last weekend when our new team of trained volunteer pharmacists took up the baton of responding to enquiries to the BfN Drugs in Breastmilk Service Facebook page

Shereen Fisher, Chief Executive for the BfN said, ‘In 2019 we asked evaluators at Swansea University ​to set out the key recommendations for taking our Drugs in Breastmilk service forward – I am pleased to say the number one recommendation was to train more supporters and ensure longer term stability, and last Saturday showed the progress we are making.’

The new team of volunteer pharmacists, who are all trained BfN breastfeeding support helpers, have shared in our vision as we look to the future, supporting breastfeeding parents and healthcare professionals with queries about drugs in breastmilk. 

We are so fortunate to be able to bring a huge amount of expertise and energy to the service, with our new group of 11 pharmacists, many of whom already work in women’s health and have experience supporting breastfeeding families via social media, both voluntarily and professionally.  

As BfN continues to work with the new Safer Medicines in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Consortium led by the Medicines in Health Regulatory Authority, this new team is supporting an enormously valuable and valued service to provide information, empathy and understanding to the thousands of enquirers who contact the service each year.

The volunteer team have got off to a great start with the guidance and support from supervisors and Wendy remains on hand throughout the summer while the service transitions. BfN are making plans for a proper celebration to mark Wendy’s unwavering commitment and contribution to supporting breastfeeding families over the last two decades. 

Wendy Jones says “I am delighted to leave the BfN Drugs in Breastmilk service in safe hands.  My dream over the past 26 years has been that all women are empowered to make evidence based decisions on medication whilst continuing to feed their babies and that all healthcare professionals feel fully informed when prescribing to them. My passion for this subject continues.  I feel very proud that another 11 pharmacists share my feelings. I’m looking forward to more time with my family, my animals and my garden, but yet another book might be needed before I put away my computer!’

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04 Jun

Making Move in May Memories

I simply cannot believe today marks the end of the Breastfeeding Network’s Move in May challenge. Blink, and May evaporated!  

In this final week of the month, our family made the most of the sunnier weather – kicking a ball around the field and balancing on planks we stumbled across were our highlights.

At work, I parked in the furthest car park from the hospital so I could enjoy a brisk walk in the fresh air either side of my shifts. The results of our efforts are showing, both mentally and physically.

My children can run around the park for longer. They’ve learned to play “tag” and “stuck in the mud”. They’ve been asking to go outside more often and cheer when I agree, running to grab their hats. And I hunted out last summer’s shorts from the loft and my quads have grown so much they no longer fit!  

Move in May has encouraged us to spend quality time together, which has been a glorious start to summer. Receiving my invitation to step up as a BfN Community Champion was an honour, and hopefully our family will keep up the good habits that were started and embedded this month. We’re already looking forward to next year’s challenge! 

Huge thanks to Ash and Cleo, our Move in May 2021 Community Champions. We simply can’t thank you enough. 


Please do check out the Move in May 2021 wrap up video: 

03 Jun

BfN Awarded Good Governance Award

It’s been an unforgettable year for the Breastfeeding Network, with record breaking numbers of mothers and parents supported on the National Breastfeeding Helpline and by our peer supporters across England, Wales and Scotland, who have adapted to supporting new parents and families online. The way the charity has responded under pressure and to the challenges has been truly amazing. So I am thrilled to be sharing yet another success on top of this….

In April this year, just over a year from the first lockdown, BfN achieved the Good Governance Award!

Under the guidance of the BfN Board, we started the journey of reviewing our governance practice many years ago. But we only felt able to formalise a process for seeking external review for BfN in late 2019, when Ann Kerr (BfN Chair) spotted details on the Good Governance Award at a training event for charities in Scotland. Good governance is fundamental to a charity’s success. It enables and supports a charity’s compliance with the law and relevant regulations. It also promotes a culture in which everything works towards fulfilling the charity’s vision.

The Good Governance Award is the Quality Standard for Scottish charities, recommended by OSCR. The Award supports and celebrates governance best practice, recognising the importance of good management to the efficacy and efficiency of Scottish Charities. Dundee Voluntary Action developed the Award, and Chief Executive Shereen Fisher said, “We know that BfN is well thought of for its breastfeeding information and support by Mothers, Parents and Families, but we can also now show parents and families and the wider public that we are well-run and well-governed – this will bring a new layer of trust and confidence”.  

What was the process?

The Board of Trustees and the Central team have spent the last eighteen months following a clear, structured approach to assessing and improving the charity’s policies and procedures. The charity has looked closely at the following areas to compile an eportfolio which evidences competency and best practice in:

  • Charitable Status
  • Trustees
  • Planning, Delivering, & Monitoring
  • Recruitment
  • Managing Staff & Volunteers
  • Managing Finances
  • Managing Resources
  • Marketing & Communications

Completion of the award provides proof that BfN is actively engaging in excellent governance through our Award Certification. It adds value and enables us to build a sustainable, better future for all of the families that we support. BfN have been awarded three years of Good Governance Award status and will be involved in a forum to support re-assessment.

For further information, email ceo@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk

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28 May

BfN Central Evaluation Highlights 2021

The BfN Central Evaluation is conducted every year. Its purpose is to help us to understand what we are doing well, where we can improve and also give us the evidence we need to  secure future funding.

The 2021  evaluation survey was launched on 1st March 2020 and we received 318 responses in total  (due to the pandemic, we received significantly less responses, which we expected)

 

2021 BfN Results Summary:

88% of the responses came from breast-feeding parents, 6% from Health Professionals and 6% from family, partners or others.  

26% of respondents were supported by the BfN Drugs in Breastmilk Service, social media chat support gave us 24% of the responses and our National Breastfeeding Helpline 6.5%. 

Other BfN Project areas also had a high response rate – as expected – and the Project Managers will receive and localised project evaluation report to share with their commissioners, staff, volunteers and local families.  

When asked about their first contact with BfN, 8% of respondents said they had support from BfN before their baby was born.  The highest ‘first contact’ bracket was the 3-6 week age bracket (18%) then the 7 week – 3 month age bracket (14.5%), and 12% in at 3-6 months.  10% of first contacts were when their baby was 2-4 days old.  These timings reflect the usual periods when breastfeeding parents  need specific support. 

For the last two years, 64% of this year of people contacted BfN because they were experiencing breastfeeding problems.  This year the figure rose to 72.5% – reflecting the need for support during lockdown when other avenues of care were reduced. 

When asked the ways they had contact with BfN (ticking all that applied) 40% reported they had used our website for information and 31% spoke to a Supporter on the telephone.  30% had support from our social media chat team and 31% requested information from the drugs in breastmilk service.  Home visits rates dropped from 27% last year to 8% which is understandable, but our new virtual/video breastfeeding groups were attended by 26.5% of responders.  14% had a 1-2-1 video call with a peer supporter.  

Our virtual/video groups and calls have proved so successful we are planning to keep some going even when face to face groups can begin again: 28% of participants said they would be keen to attend both virtual and real groups and intend to continue with video support calls. 

 

What respondents told us about accessing virtual support: 

“Liked the video support. Really convenient because I didn’t have to try and leave the house with a baby!” 

 “Now and then I have missed the interaction but the support received especially thorough zoom has been amazing” 

 “Very useful to have at least the video calls if can’t in person. I would have felt so lost and alone without this” 

Once again – the most popular topic of discussion with BfN Peer Supporters was positioning and attachment for feeding at 57% with 45.5% of people struggling with painful breasts and nipples.  33.5% of parents asked for information about medication/medical intervention and impact on breast milk/ breastfeeding.  

The next common topics were baby’s weight gain and expressing milk – exactly the same topics as last year and the year before.  20% of people talked about their mental wellbeing or mood.  

We hope we were able to ensure all these parents were able to continue feeding their babies if they wished to.  A new topic this year was Covid with 19% of parents reporting that they asked about the safety of breastfeeding with covid or when being vaccinated.   

As in previous years, we asked a variety of ‘before/after’ questions and were delighted with the answers, which proved the value of peer support: 

60% agreed they had the information needed to make decisions about feeding their baby before contact with BfN, rising to 90% after support from BfN. 

40% of breastfeeding parents could breastfeed without pain before contacting BfN, increasing to 75% after peer support. 

 

Some other highlights from these ‘Before & After’ statements include: 

Respondents Said 

Before BfN support 

After BfN support 

I felt confident about making choices regarding breastfeeding 

63% 

90% 

I had people who could give me support with breastfeeding 

54% 

90% 

I felt part of a group / network / community that supported me with breastfeeding 

32% 

76% 

I felt able to continue to breastfeed for as long as I chose 

62% 

85% 

I had information on what support was available for breastfeeding in my local area 

48% 

80% 

I felt lonely and isolated on my breastfeeding journey 

35% 

12% 

Nearly than half of respondents claimed that BfN supported them to breastfeed for longer than they otherwise would have done.  Reasons given for this included evidence based information about medication, information about attachment and finding a pain free position, expressing milk, managing blocked ducts and mastitis, knowing what is ‘normal’ new born behaviour and that it is possible and beneficial for older babies and toddler to breastfeed. 

There were also lots of comments about general support, practical suggestions, building confidence and encouragement, feeling listened to.  

90% of parents said they felt listened to, that their choices were respected, the support/information they received was specific to them and they did not feel pressured to do any particular thing. 

96% of families were satisfied with the support they received from BfN and 95% would recommend us to family or friends.  

 

Comments from respondents: 

“I have just qualified as a Peer Supporter. Inspired by the support I received after the birth of my first child.” 

“Positive support and made me feel more confident with my decision to breastfeed.” 

“I find your medication fact sheets extremely helpful and regularly use them to inform discussions around breastfeeding and medications with my patients.” 

“Thank you for your help at a tough time last year!” 

“Made me feel confident to go forward on my breastfeeding journey.” 

“The most valuable service in my opinion. Please pass on my thanks.” 

“They were more understanding and had time for me” 

“Felt like a friend talking to me” 

“Time, and gentle manner” 

“It was also reassuring to know that someone else had experienced the same problems as me.” 

“No judgment or pressure” 

“Easy to access at any time of day” 

“They knew what they were talking about using a hands off demonstration approach”  

“They listened to me. They listened to what happened during my birth, to how I wanted to feed my baby and to my concerns at the time. They offered kind and practical support and gave me all the time I needed to talk” 

 

 

Nina White 
Programme Manager  
21.4.2021 
 
Area based reports will be prepared for projects to enable a focused response to suggestions/comments. 

 

21 May

Move in May: Still going strong in week three

This week our Community Champions Cleo and Ash have really stepped up their Move in May efforts. Despite the rain, both families have continued to be an inspiration to us all.  Today they are shared more about their efforts as we near the final week of Move in May. 

Cleo 

It’s been a funny old May. So different to last year (mainly the weather) but we are as committed as ever to our family Move in May challenge. We’ve mainly been walking this year (in the rain!) with me chasing the children on their bikes. I’d love to put some more minutes in on my own exercise bike, but all that running is certainly boosting my fitness level.
 
This year the children are older, so we’ve managed some lovely long afternoon walks without them complaining to be carried, or go home. Victory! Public transport is now an option for us too, so we’ve had outings to new green spaces which has been a huge boost to mental well-being. 
 
The kids really are an inspiration. They just love running and jumping about whether in the back garden, park or making “sand angels” in the local sandpit. We’ve been really happy to see the sports clubs reopen too, meaning that has helped, Zara and Joshua have been colouring in the Miss Milk for cricket and gymnastics after school clubs this year. 
 

The children are loving the Milk Family again this year. I read them all the new characters’ details once at the start of the month and I’m impressed how they still remember each name. They keep reminding me who likes yoga, running around, and which are the milk twins!

 
Sadly, the wet weather has meant fewer options, but one rainy Saturday morning I found myself dancing with Zara to Channel 5’s Bop Box Boogie. I have to admit it was satisfying learning the routine! Hopefully next week will bring us some sunshine. We can only live in hope. 

Ash 

This week’s Move in May has seen sunshine, rain, and hail! Our walks have revolved around puddle jumping. One afternoon, my toddler jumped in so many puddles that by the time we got home, his socks were soaked and toes wrinkly! We’ve also enjoyed avoiding or walking on pavement cracks, and taking the longer route to destinations when time allows.

Even though my children are now 3 and 4 years old, I’ve joined an affordable postnatal exercise class run by a physiotherapist. The classes are super fun, and helping to keep my pelvic floor and abdominal muscles in check. Each class is only half an hour long, but by the end I’m as wet from sweat as my toddler was from jumping in all those puddles! 

Looking back to the start of this challenge, I’m definitely noticing small differences in how my body and mind are feeling: I’m sleeping better, I’m eating and drinking more, and my jeans are fitting a little better around thighs that are growing stronger. I can’t believe we’re soon entering the final week of Move in May!   

14 May

Guest Blog: Our Move in Move in May achievements so far

Move in May is underway! In our household, May is a busy time of year and this month is no exception. I’m currently in the middle of exam and essay season at university, my partner’s clinic is full, and our youngest child joined our eldest at nursery. Without the Breastfeeding Network’s challenge to keep our bodies moving, I would definitely be ending each day, every day, slumped in a heap on our bean bag!  

My most significant change since starting Move in May has been switching driving for walking wherever I can… Even if it’s raining. So not only am I getting my blood pumping, I’m also helping the environment and saving money. I picked up a second-hand hopscotch for us to play indoors, which went down a treat one rainy afternoon. 

During online lectures where we’re just required to listen and learn, I’ve taken to stretching on my yoga mat, instead of sitting at my desk for hours on end. And my biggest achievement? I tackled some cardio for the first time in months!

Sailing has not always been plain though and one day a strong headache knocked me off my feet. Whereas I would normally hide under a duvet in the dark until the pain had passed, I attempted some “Yoga for Headache Release” in my pyjamas (thanks YouTube!). My partner took our little people out for a long walk, so I even had a few hours of recovery in the peace and quiet too.

I hope you’re enjoying the Move in May challenge. Let me know how you’re getting on and what you’re trying! 

Ash x

 

p.s. you can reach me at @oh_anotherstudentmidwife and don’t forget to use the hashtag #MoveinMay2021. 

 

07 May

Meet Cleo and her family our Move in May community champions

I’m Cleo and I live in Islington, North London with my husband and two children Zara and Joshua.

We are Move in May Community Champions. Our role is to help spread the word about BfN’s Move in May campaign and to share our experiences to encourage other families to get involvedWe’re excited to be involved again this year because we know just how important the work of BfN is to families getting the support if/when they need it along their breastfeeding journey.  

We have fond memories of Move in May 2020 and that’s why we jumped at the chance to take part again this year. Last year we had just gone into lockdown, we had a lot on our plates at home with work and childcare, we were missing friends and family and just needed to inject some positivity. Taking part in Move in May really helped us physically and mentally during that time of uncertainty.

We really enjoyed the experience of completing Move in May 2020 and the children can’t wait to find out what the Milk Family have to offer this year. It will of course be different in 2021 now that restrictions are lifting, but we still plan to take part and do something every day 

For us, success was in the simplest things last year. Often we would go for a walk or ride to a park, or do a kids yoga session if it was raining. Other days we would do something active like shuttle runs. We tried to mix things up to stay motivated – and it worked.  

My children particularly enjoyed using the printable daily activity tracker and colouring it in after they achieved their goals each day. At the end of the month I surprised them by putting a puzzle, game and a book in an old delivery box along with their completion certificates.  The children were convinced that it had all been sent by Miss Milk herself to congratulate them!

We look forward to sharing more about our Move in May journey with you again this year. 

Best wishes to you all for the month ahead.  

Cleo