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

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: 

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

05 May

Meet Ash: Move in May Community Champion

My name is Ash, I’m a parent of two youngsters, and I’m taking part in this year’s Move in May campaign! 

Deciding to get involved and get moving with The Breastfeeding Network was an easy call to make. Last spring, my partner and I were unwell, and the Move in May campaign was just the incentive we needed to get back on our feet. 

We started small. Jumping in puddles. Pottering to the park next door for a round of Pooh sticks. Gently stretching before bed. By the end of the month, all four of us (plus our dog!) were chasing each other round a field with a rugby ball!  

The winter lockdown took its toll on our family, and we know we’re not alone. Those months were tough. For us, a combination of working in clinical practice, preparing our firecrackers for pre-school, and moving house meant that exercise was just, well… completely forgotten. 

When I saw an advert on Instagram for this year’s Move in May campaign, I realised just how long it had been since I’d been active outside of dashing around a hospital ward. 

This year, our family will have lots of options for activities as lockdown restrictions continue to ease. When the doors re-open to our local farm park, I’ll be first in line for their Giant Jumping pillow! (Sorry, kids!) I want to get outside and for my children to play tag with my friends’ children. I want to teach them how to ride a bicycle. I want to shed the guilt I feel when I do prioritise the exercise that I know my body needs. And I want to feel healthier, stronger, and ready for whatever the rest of the year may bring.  

The Breastfeeding Network have lots of ideas for daily activities you can try and they don’t cost a penny. If you sign up to take part, you’ll receive weekly motivational e-mails packed with more ideas and tools to keep you motivated.  

If you want to connect and spur each other on, come find me on Instagram: @oh_anotherstudentmidwife. Let me know how you’re getting on!  

With love, May sunshine, and star jumps, 

Ash   

     

28 Apr

BfN and NCT launch new guide to re-starting support services for expectant and new parents during Covid-19. 

NCT and the Breastfeeding Network, in collaboration with an alliance of supporting organisations and in consultation with Public Health England, have today released a new guide to re-starting support services for expectant and new parents during Covid-19. 

The guide provides a set of principles and considerations for organisations to work through so that they can restart their face-to-face support services safely and with confidence. Covid-19 and the prolonged period of social restrictions have had a huge impact on the lives of pregnant women, their partners and families with new babies. 

Reduced access to pre and postnatal community support, restrictions in access to maternity care for partners, limited face-to-face support with breastfeeding, fewer possibilities for practical and emotional support from friends and family, financial insecurity – combined with high levels of misinformation about the virus and vaccine programme – have left many families struggling to cope. Some groups have been disproportionately affected, widening inequalities that already exist. 

The role of third sector organisations, charities and academics supporting early parenting has been crucial in adapting and strengthening support in a socially distanced time alongside building up evidence. The sector is also fulfilling a powerful role in providing a ‘voice’ for parental experience to ensure attention on these issues and that critical resources are applied in the short and longer term.  

As restrictions ease, our sector has the commitment and capability to ensure community support thrives. Collaboration and shared learning will be more important than ever, and we are grateful to all of the individuals and organisations who have contributed to the principles set out in this guide. 

20 Oct

Baby-led weaning: where are we now?

Gill Rapley & Tracey Murkett are speaking at the BfN online conference on the 24th October 2020. If you can’t wait until then to delve in to this fascinating topic, here’s a little insight into what they have in store for us:

As baby-led weaning becomes increasingly established around the world, we are often asked about the traditions around introducing solid foods in other countries. This is a difficult question to answer, partly because childcare customs are not always written down and partly because, over the last century, the practice of spoon feeding with pureed foods has penetrated most cultures, pushing out the more traditional ways.

In terms of history, archaeologists have found evidence, from jaw bones, that babies in prehistoric times would have been chewing quite tough foods by around 7 or 8 months. The practice of mothers pre-chewing foods for their babies is also well documented; this persists today although, since the advent of cooking (which enables all types of food to be made soft), it’s more of a symbolic act, rather than being part of day-to-day eating.

We know that it’s normal, in some societies, for babies to forage for molluscs and invertebrates as soon as they can crawl, picking up grubs and insects to taste and eat. We also know that for most of history – and still in much of the world – babies had breastmilk for much longer than is now common in the West. Breastmilk formed an important part of babies’ diets until they were at least three years old, which is likely to have made the move to solids a more gradual process. And we’ve heard from many parents around the world (as well as in the UK) that their grandparents recount how they simply shared their own food with their baby, and the babies fed themselves when they were ready – essentially baby-led weaning, but without the name.

There are now few countries where traditions of childcare and food are simply passed on, mother to daughter. Childcare in the 20th century was marked by ‘experts’ and doctors telling parents what to do, from Truby King to Gina Ford.  One of the effects of taking the expertise away from mothers allowed a new industry to emerge, making money from commercial baby food (and formula), and promoting it as better and more convenient. In most countries today, parents are influenced to some degree by the baby food industry, often via the health care system (despite the best efforts of the World Health Organization and others over many years). The result is similar everywhere: an approach to the introduction of solid foods that is controlled and directed by adults, based on spoon feeding, and structured around timing, measured amounts and the need to introduce foods in a certain order.

Interestingly, the order in which foods are supposed to be introduced, and the list of foods that are not allowed before a certain age, varies from country to country – although each would claim their recommendation is based on science. The amounts dictated (or implied) are different, too. For example, the size of a jar of commercial babyfood is often taken as an indication of the amount the average baby is expected to eat for a main meal by, say, 8 months. But a jar of baby food in Japan is roughly two thirds of the size of the average jar sold in the UK! And of course, the issue of when complementary feeding should start is still hotly debated in many countries, with the babyfood industry campaigning to revert to, or retain, the 4-month rule.

In the UK, as in much of the rest of the world, the perceptions and practices around introducing solid foods to babies have followed a similar path to those relating to breastfeeding. Throughout the 20th century, most guidance for mothers was based on timing and limiting breastfeeds. Babies’ and mothers’ instincts weren’t to be trusted, and the amount of milk a baby consumed needed to be measured and controlled. This was clearly much easier to achieve with formula than with breastmilk.  So, rather than allowing the baby’s development and instincts to lead the way, or relying on the parent’s understanding of what their baby may need, there was unnecessary intervention. The effect of this was to take away the baby’s autonomy and undermine the mother’s confidence (and that of those around her), so that the baby was no longer considered capable of knowing his own needs.

However, there’s been an enormous amount of research around breastfeeding in recent decades. We now know far more now about how babies control their intake of breastmilk naturally at the breast, how the instincts and hormones of mother and baby work together and how babies’ natural behavior should be trusted, rather than controlled or changed. The research around introducing solid food is lagging way behind, and is often compromised by industry involvement. But, as baby-led weaning becomes more mainstream around the world, it’s becoming increasingly clear that we need to take a closer look at babies’ natural behaviour and development around food and eating. Maybe, rather than making assumptions that adult intervention is needed, we should use babies’ instincts and capabilities as our starting point for introducing solid foods.

To find out more about the conference and purchase tickets click here.

07 Aug

Breastfeeding Support in Your Language

As World Breastfeeding Week 2020 draws to a close, we are delighted to showcase our wonderful Volunteer Peer Supporters speaking in some of the different languages that they offer breastfeeding support .

We hope that you enjoy hearing from them. 

 

Get in touch to find out if we speak your language.

 

#WBW2020