31 Jan

BfN in the news: Shereen Fisher appears on BBC Woman’s Hour

Shereen Fisher, our CEO, featured in a panel discussion on BBC Woman’s Hour this week, on infant feeding experiences and how they made women feel. Shereen was joined by GP Dr Ellie Cannon and maternity matron Gill Diskin. The discussion covered all aspects of infant feeding, and addressed some of the challenges faced by new mums, as well as the health care professionals and organisations who aim to support them. Here’s what Shereen had to say about the experience.

I was thrilled to be invited to be part of the panel for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour this week, representing BfN. The opportunity was unique and the feature would be part of a 3 day-long focus on infant feeding – no flash in the pan for women’s stories about breastfeeding this time, but 3-plus hours of national radio air time devoted to getting the triumphs and heartache across – and for me – the injustice of women who don’t get the support they so deserve.

Invitation accepted then the worry began, as the facts of the show and angle the producers were aiming for were slow to emerge, along with details of the other panel members. I liken the experience of preparation to that of ‘getting a genie into a bottle’ – I am not a doctor or Public Health specialist, so a fair amount of reading and revising ensued (taking me back to my Law degree finals, when I promised myself that I’d never put myself through it again), as did heartfelt conversations with some sound, strong and sensible minds – you know who you are.

The challenge was, when the cork was taken off the bottle, to make sure that at least five clear messages were unleashed and not just a mist of vapour … The preparation, guidance from others and commitment I have held to this issue for over six years came good in the end and I was calm and relaxed in the studio (broom cupboard!), waiting to hear Jenni Murray say my name and invite me to speak.

Predictably the slant has been somewhat focused on the problems and the negatives of breastfeeding, but the presence that BfN was afforded has given me hope that all voices are valid and with a concerted effort we will be able to improve support for all women to pursue their choices and reach their own individual goals. That, I am certain, will be the secret to happy mums and babies.

To hear the full podcast featuring Shereen Fisher, Chief Executive, visit:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00027ml

09 Jan

Dr Wendy Jones, The Breastfeeding Network’s pharmacist, awarded MBE in Queen’s New Year’s Honours List

One of the founding members of the Breastfeeding Network (BfN), and our resident Pharmacist for over 20 years, Dr Wendy Jones, has been awarded MBE in Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for 2019.

Wendy set up the BfN drugs in breastmilk information service in 1997 after being asked to update an information pack about the safety of drugs in breast milk. Gradually the service grew and now she now leads a small team of volunteers who offer individual support to more than 10,000 families and healthcare professionals each year via email and social media.

Commenting on the award which Wendy receives for services to mothers and babies, Shereen Fisher, CEO of the Breastfeeding Network, said:

“We are delighted with the news that Wendy is receiving this award in recognition of her work. Wendy is an inspiration to us all.  She has dedicated the last twenty years to supporting mothers and families through the drugs in breastmilk service she founded.  Day in day out, she responds to phone calls, emails and now social media messages from parents and healthcare professionals who need reliable, evidence based information about the safety of medications and treatments while breastfeeding.  The work she does allows parents to make their own informed decisions and has undoubtedly saved lives.”

A soon to be published evaluation of the drugs in breastmilk information service was overwhelmed by responses from mums and healthcare professionals when they were asked for their thoughts on the service. A mum of four said: “Wendy has saved me and my daughters many times over. I can honestly say I would have committed suicide after my second baby was born had it not been for her support to keep taking my meds and to keep breastfeeding.”

A consultant paediatrician said: “Wendy’s information is presented in a way which is accessible to non-medical mothers to understand, but also written in a way that doctors who know little about breastfeeding will take seriously.”

Wendy said: “I couldn’t be more proud than I am today that I have been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List as Founder of the Breastfeeding Network Drugs in Breastmilk Service for services to Mothers and Babies.

“In 1995 when I wrote the first information on drugs in breastmilk I could never in a million years have imagined this happening. I followed my dreams and the opportunities given, massively supported by my family and particularly my husband Mike [pictured above with Wendy] who gave me the opportunity to leave paid work and develop my passion.

“Nothing I can do would be possible if breastfeeding advocates didn’t spread the word that you can breastfeed as normal when you take most medication or there are ways around it. So, this MBE is for all of you too for all the hard work you do in groups, on the helplines, face to face, via social media and just at the school gate or supermarket checkout. You are all amazing.

“Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments today. I’m treasuring them in my heart and taking inspiration from them to keep challenging and to carry on supporting mums, dads, grandmas, peer supporters and everyone to keep breastfeeding these special precious babies. I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a year when breastfeeding and its support gets the recognition it deserves and just maybe some funding as a public health issue.”

Earlier this year Wendy was also awarded a Points of Light award by the Prime Minister.

Wendy’s story

Over the past 40 years, Community Pharmacist Dr Wendy Jones has made a huge impact on the lives of thousands of families across the UK. In this time she has helped people manage issues such as weight loss, cardiovascular disease and smoking cessation alongside her general pharmaceutical duties, but her real impact has been felt by new mothers. Wendy has dedicated her life to researching the effects of medication and medical treatments on breastfeeding mothers and their babies.

In 1997 she was one of the founder members of The Breastfeeding Network, and in 1999 she set up the Drugs in Breastmilk helpline. This telephone helpline was set up in response to the number of questions the charity was receiving from breastfeeding mums about prescribed medications. At that time there was no easily accessible, reliable information for mums who had been told to stop breastfeeding in order to take certain forms of medication. Wendy has single-handedly filled this gap.

In many cases where a mum is told to stop breastfeeding, there is no evidence to support the need for this. The mum can be left feeling she has no choice but to stop breastfeeding (even if she wants to continue), or she may choose not to take the medication prescribed. The impact of having to make a decision like this can be far reaching for some mums. In a very few cases, evidence shows the mum does need to stop breastfeeding, and then, being able to understand the reasons behind this may help the mum with this process. In most cases, the evidence shows the mum can continue breastfeeding safely and for many, to know this is possible is a huge relief.

Over the years, the service Wendy provides has grown – she now leads a small team of volunteers who offer individual support to more than 10,000 families each year via email and social media.  She is contacted by mums and families, as well as health care professionals.

She has also written more than 50 information sheets about the most common medications breastfeeding mums ask about – these infosheets cover everything from postnatal depression and anxiety to cold and cough remedies, to contraception, hayfever, headlice and norovirus.

She was awarded a PhD in 2000 and has written several books on this topic, as well as speaking at numerous national and international conferences, study days and other events.

She is extremely well known and highly regarded by breastfeeding supporters across the world. Her knowledge, patience, understanding and support has been felt and appreciated by thousands of families.

With her unending, selfless commitment and passion Wendy is an inspiration to many. Her work is so far reaching, it is impossible to measure the difference she has made.

 

For more information/press enquiries:
Contact Felicity Lambert, BfN Comms Officer felicity.lambert@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk / 07979872301

https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/detailed-information/drugs-in-breastmilk/

https://www.facebook.com/BfNDrugsinBreastmilkinformation/

26 Oct

What Breastfeeding Looks Like

We recently appealed for photographs showing what breastfeeding looks like in your everyday lives. The response has been immense, and the photos are so wonderful and varied, showing breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere…often in some quite comical situations!

Everyone has a small part to play in normalising breastfeeding and removing the stigma that can be attached to something that should be as commonplace as eating a sandwich. This might be by feeding your child in public, or by supporting others who you see feeding, with a kind word or just a smile. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed photos for this project, it is our hope that they will be shared and seen widely and will also do their bit to help make breastfeeding the norm.

Here’s a full round up of all of the photos we received – click on each one to view the full image, and hover to see accompanying captions and comments. Unfortunately we are only a small team and are unable to accept any further submissions for this page or the original Facebook album – however if you’d like to share your image, you can do so by adding it as a comment to the Facebook album.

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This project was originally inspired by this post:
https://www.romper.com/p/what-does-breastfeeding-look-like-these-photos-celebrate-the-diversity-of-experiences-9926018

 

10 May

‘BfN helped me through some tough times’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

27 Apr

The non-runners guide to our Mum’s Milk Run 2018

The beauty of our virtual run is that you can complete it any way you like. You don’t have to run it at all if running is not your thing. To give you a bit of inspiration for our Mums Milk Run 2018, we have interviewed two of our supporters who did the Mums Milk Run a different way last year

Sukie is Vice-Chair of the BfN board, and last year did the Mums Milk Run through spinning.

I don’t like running, I’m not built to run, and I find it boring! But I’m a member of my local YMCA gym, and they do spinning classes every day, which I love. I do six of those a week. So last year, I decided to do 20 spins in a week for the Mums Milk Run.

I really wanted to be part of the Mums Milk Run because I’m the Vice-Chair of the BfN board, and the longer I’m involved with the organisation, the more I see the inequalities in breastfeeding support, and I really want to help do something about that. I did it because I know we need the funding, and we need to raise awareness.

So I decided on 20 spins in a week, because that seemed like a good challenge compared to my usual six, and I thought it was something people might give me money for. And last year was the 20th anniversary of BfN so 20 seemed like a good amount.

The main challenge was that I couldn’t wash my gym kit quickly enough! It’s an average of three spinning classes a day. Towards the end I was wearing really unflattering mis-matched cobbled together outfits!

I felt extra fit by the end of it. My clothes started to feel loser, and I felt so good about myself, it really helped my self-esteem.

I definitely would recommend spinning to others – I think it is great fun. The music is great, there are some great instructors, and we have a laugh, it’s not too serious. And it’s a great community of all ages. There’s a couple who regularly sit next to me who are 82. They always save me the bike they know I like! I always say I see more of my spinning friends than I see of my husband!

 

Nina is Programme Manager for BfN and last year did part of her Mums Milk Run in Lake Windermere!

Nina at Lake WindermereI am a keen runner, I’ve been running for a long time, and I love long distance running. I’ve done marathons and ultra-marathons. Last year I had to have a knee operation, and by the time the Mums Milk Run came around, the doctors said I could only do a short slow run – 1 mile at the most – because I had to build back up slowly. So I thought ‘OK I will do my Mums Milk run in 20 short little physio runs, getting my strength back’. I really wanted to be part of the Mums Milk Run if I could, because I’ve received so much support from BfN, and I want other people to be able to experience that support.

When all my other running friends were doing spring marathons, for me it was getting back to running after the operation. It could have been quite a lonely time for me, as running is a big part of my social life. But instead of feeling like I was missing out on all the long runs, I became part of such a lovely group of BfN ladies supporting each other through the Mums Milk Run.

That year I even swam part of the Mums Milk Run. I always enjoyed swimming before I was a runner, particularly outdoor swimming. That May I was supposed to run a marathon around Lake Windermere, but I had to defer. I still went anyway to cheer my friends on. Whilst they ran around Windermere, I went and swam the last mile of my 20 miles across the lake. As I was swimming I could see the runners running by, it was lovely, and I felt like I’d achieved something that day.

I do love outdoor swimming. It’s peaceful and calm. When you’re running you can hear other runners, chatting, pounding of footsteps, panting and grunting. In the lake it’s absolutely quiet and peaceful. I regularly just stop and float on my back, because it’s not about the swimming for me, it’s about the quiet and the beautiful views. It’s invigorating. You come out the other end and feel amazing. 

Registration is still open for our Mums Milk Run 2018. If you fancy doing it, but don’t like running, why not do some exercise you do like. It all counts and every registration raises much needed funds for BfN’s work providing independent evidence-based support about breastfeeding. This is all about raising funds and having FUN, plus you will get a unique BfN medal at the end!

 

17 Apr

Why I do the Mums Milk Run

claref - run2018Ahead of the Mums Milk Run 2018, we interviewed some of our regular fundraisers to find out what they get out of doing our bi-annual 20k virtual run. Clare Farquhar is BfN’s Central Support Manager and she got into running recently. Here’s her story.

Why do you run for BfN?

I have been doing the Mums Milk Run virtual run for BfN since the first event in 2017. I used to volunteer as a breastfeeding supporter, but I find I don’t have time for that now, so this is my way of supporting BfN on top of the job I do as BfN Central Support Manager.

I think there are a lot of similarities between running and breastfeeding in terms of things that help make them successful. Being single minded, determined, not caring what others think or say (no one did say anything, but I was worried) are all factors that helped me get into running and into breastfeeding. There’s also the physical and mental health benefits, of both activities, and the sense of achievement when you reach your own goals. They’re both free, you can do them as a group or on your own, at home or out and about. Mentally, breastfeeding and running have a lot of the same challenges, so running for BfN makes so much sense to me.

How did you get started?

I’m from Newcastle, and that’s where the Great North Run starts. Every year I would see the run on TV and wish I could do it, but I never thought I could. Then one year, I don’t know why, I just thought ‘this year I’m going to do it’. That was in 2016, and I was so determined that when I didn’t get a place in the ballot, I signed up to run for a charity – I did it for Mind.

I had never run before, I always hated running at school, and wasn’t really very active at all. I’d just done a bit of netball. But I got a free training plan from the Great North Run website, which was for beginners, and I stuck to it rigidly.

The race was brilliant, and also very emotional for me. It was held on my Dad’s birthday that year, and I wasn’t to know but it ended up being his last birthday. It was held in the September and he died in the January.

I think it was my Dad that motivated me to do the Great North Run in the first place. My sister did it a long time ago, and he’d always said he was proud of her, and I wanted him to be proud of me too. When I look back on it, it’s strange that that year I was suddenly so determined to do the run. My sister did it that day too, although she was a lot faster than me, and I think he was very proud of us both when we came back with our medals.

I completed it in 3 hours and 22 minutes and I did the whole thing on a run/walk basis, which means I ran for a couple of minutes, then walked for a couple of minutes repeatedly.

Since then, running has really helped me get through the bereavement. I think it’s so good for your physical and mental health. When I go running I get to clear my head, and I don’t really think about anything else other than how I’ll get through the next half mile.

What do you like about running?

I like going running on my own, it’s time to myself, and I enjoy listening to my music while I run. Some people like running groups, but they’re not really for me. It’s the peace and quiet I like – being able to go out under my own steam and leaving the house with just a front door key and a bottle of water – it’s quite liberating!

How do you keep going when you really don’t feel like it?

It’s determination that really got me through the tough times when I first started running. I wanted to do it, and so I just did it. Initially I felt a bit self-conscious and was worried what people might think – a woman in her 40s running around, and not having the right gear. But eventually I just decided, I don’t care what other people think. I actually got a lot of support from family and friends, and still do. Occasionally someone will beep their horn at me, and I nearly always automatically assume it is someone having a laugh at my expense, only to find out later it was someone I know beeping to wish me well!

Running for charity really helps, because I get lots of encouragement from friends and family who sponsor me and that gives me added motivation to get out when I really don’t feel like it.

What are your running goals?

I recently completed my first 5k event where I ran the whole way. I was pretty slow but I did it! I’m now working on being able to run the whole way for a 10k. I’ve signed up for the Great Womens Run in Glasgow in June, which is a 10k, so the BfN virtual run will be perfect as part of my training. For me it is all about achieving my own goals and not worrying about what anyone else is doing.

14 Nov

From new mum to Peer Supporter: BfN volunteer stories

Children wearing 'ask my mum about breastfeeding' topsAs part of our 20th anniversary parliamentary reception in Westminster tonight, two of our breastfeeding supporters will be sharing their breastfeeding journeys from new Mum, to qualifying as Breastfeeding Supporters for BfN. We like their stories so much, we want to share them with you too! So here they are.

Gosia’s story
I’ve always liked to think about breastfeeding in two ways. First one, more personal, related to my own experience and second more social.

I think I’m blessed to have breastfed my children for as long as I wanted. My older daughter for 50 months and going strong with my 15 month old boy.

There were a couple of factors that had an impact on fulfilling my breastfeeding wishes. I gave birth to my babies in this country, which at least partially implemented protective law for breastfeeding couples. Moreover, all women in my family breastfeed and this prepared me for the idea that breastfeeding can be associated with some pain in the beginning, although it shouldn’t be. Also my husband and sister were a great support when I most needed it. Possibly this support was the most important part.

On the social level I hope for every child to be healthy and content. This wish pushed me to take action and promote, protect and support breastfeeding.

A lot of supporters are using the comparison of bike riding and breastfeeding. You don’t know how to ride a bike unless you see someone doing it and then practising. So often I feel like a caring tutor who shows women how to ride, shows which path may be less bumpy, gives options for balancing wheels or a bar and most of all encourages and motivates.

I am grateful for volunteering with BfN, making a difference to individuals and the future generation.

A baby's hand pulling at a mother's topMarion’s story

I became a mother at the young and tender age of 41. Medically, I was considered a geriatric mum. However I thought of myself as a lazy mum because I wanted to breastfeed. There was no way I was going to get up in the middle of the night to prepare a bottle or sterilize equipment when all I had to do was lift my top up and feed my baby. My younger sister prepared me – go through the pain and after 3 weeks it will be fine. I never knew that I could access support.

What I did learn was that my newborn baby cried when I put her down and stopped crying when I put her to my chest. It just made sense to keep her close whilst I was also recovering from the birth. A quiet life in the early days whilst I rest and recover.

I have also read that some cultures stay at home for 40 days and 40 nights, partly to recover from the birth and to build a baby’s immune system. I decided that’s exactly what I should do. I was in no hurry to meet the world.  My world was with me, feeding and sleeping safely together.

I read so many baby books but my maternal instinct kicked in. What do animals do? They keep their young close – cuddly and warm, what I now know as skin to skin. Allow them to feed as often and as much as they want . Babies, when they have access to food can not only feed themselves but control how much they want to eat. All I had to do was to sit and learn how to maximize the best feeding position so that I was comfortable and my baby fed efficiently. In fact that can take from 2-3 days up to several weeks to learn.

I found out that there was a local breastfeeding drop-in run by The Breastfeeding Network a charitable organisation that I could attend on a weekly basis, which I did.

What I never realized at the time was how many other women struggle with breastfeeding and that I could help and support them. After a while I took a course to become a breastfeeding helper, and I was soon helping out at my local breastfeeding drop-in.

I live in Islington and I feel lucky that the London borough of Islington commissioned the Breastfeeding Network to run local breastfeeding drop-ins.  I volunteered for 2 and half years. Soon I found myself on another course training to become a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter and I was then paid to support mothers in both UCLH and Whittington hospital. I was trained to visit mothers at home and qualified to run my own breastfeeding drop-in in Islington.