It's only natural! Roundup from Breast Feeding Awareness Week


National breast feeding celebration week 2016 from 18th -27th June 2016 


The focus for this year’s national breast feeding celebration week hosted by UNICEF and the baby friendly initiative was how “everyone in local communities can support mothers to breast feed “whenever and wherever there are”.


The events organised by the Calderdale health visiting team and showcased across the week were reflective of this. Alison Bottomley and Alison Walklate, both health visitors and infant feeding co-ordinators, organised two “coffee shop meet-ups” which provided the opportunity for mothers and health professionals to share what works well to support breast feeding mothers.


The “meet ups” took place in Tesco’s Brighouse and Sainsbury’s Halifax, on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st June, and in preparation for the event Haggy’s craft group knitted a mountain of beautiful “boob” hats, which the babies either loved or hated modelling.


Whilst the hats added a novelty factor and provided a talking point, they highlighted the fact that breast feeding in public often goes unnoticed. Perhaps giving the perception that no-one is breast feeding.  Mothers were encouraged to share their stories of feeding their infant in public for the first time.


Busy places were preferred by some mothers as they felt they blended in with the hustle and bustle, whereas others preferred the calm environment of a mother and baby room. One mother recalled how an elderly gentleman had smiled at her and explained how his own wife had breast fed five of their children and that he felt immensely proud of her, and went on to tell the mother she should be proud of herself.


The Northowram health visiting team used the celebration week to relaunch their breast feeding support group. Locally, breast-feeding rates at six weeks are 42% and evidence suggests that mothers who are supported to continue to breast feed to six weeks are more likely to feed for longer. 


A positive social experience within the community a mother lives is a key factor. Feedback from the mothers in Northowram suggested the group had provided “a friendly welcoming atmosphere”. Continued support is also a crucial factor in sustaining breast-feeding rates and two established support groups choose to “thank” the mothers. 


Health visitor, Katie Keeler, provided a baby massage session to encourage more breast-feeding mothers to attend. Whilst the Todmorden health visiting team, in conjunction with the peer support network focused on women’s health and well-being and provided reflexology and physiotherapy.


The use of the “it’s only natural” Facebook page encourage mothers to tag pictures of themselves with the “it’s only natural” logo, and photos were received from across the globe. All in all the week provided a real sense of working within and for the community and in the words of one mother it helped her to “not feel ashamed at doing something very natural”. 


In fact a large percentage of the mothers from the “coffee shop meet ups” expressed an interest in becoming peer support workers as they truly understood the need for everyone to work together to support mothers to feed “whenever and wherever they are”.