World Breastfeeding Week: what support we offer to parents
Epsom and St Helier University Hospital NHS Trust is raising awareness of the value of exclusive breastfeeding to mothers, babies and society – and the support that is available for parents.
It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and to mark the occasion, the trust is highlighting the support it offers to mums who are breastfeeding or who want to breastfeed, and how it provides staff with the resources, tools and knowledge.
This work – among other things – has earned it the prestigious UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) Gold status, which – thanks to Infant Feeding Lead Sue Taylor who has spearheaded this work – it has held since 2018.
Baby Friendly hospitals promote skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth for all babies, and mums and babies routinely stay together in the immediate post-birth period, helping to get feeding and their relationship off to a good start.
Parents of sick or pre-term babies are also encouraged to take an active part in their child’s care on neonatal units and in transitional care areas. All parents receive information about safer sleep and caring for babies for their day and night sleeps.
Clare lives in Ashtead and gave birth to her daughter, Emmeline, in March 2021 at Epsom Hospital.
Emmeline – or Emme – was delivered by forceps and was jaundiced and sleepy but otherwise healthy, while Clare was left exhausted, weak and anaemic. She tried breastfeeding in hospital, and after returning home recalls: “It became obvious that feeding wasn’t going well – I had pain and Emme wasn’t able to latch easily or long enough to get a proper feed.”
The family received support from midwives, who suggested Emme may be tongue-tied. This was confirmed, and Emme had her tongue separated but there were still difficulties with learning to latch. Clare recalls her little one screaming and getting tired.
It was then that Clare sought support – including from ESTH. She joined an online drop-in session and spoke to the Infant Feeding team, who took time to observe Emme feeding.
Clare was advised to spend a lot of time with Emme skin to skin to trigger her latching, and make sure she was positioned well.
Clare says: “I found that having the support sessions every few days gave me a milestone to work towards when I would get help again. I would have found it hard to keep going without that.
“The team reassured me that frequent, on-demand feeding was normal and were able to address my concerns so I wasn’t always wondering ‘Is this ok?’
“I’m really grateful for the support we received at the start when we were struggling, it was such a relief when I could take Emme everywhere with me and feed her without stress!”
Sue Taylor, the Infant Feeding Lead at the trust, says there are a number of myths flying around about breastfeeding.
“There is a lot of information out there, and I understand this could be daunting,” she adds.
“You may have a lot of questions, and that is why we are here to provide support and to ensure that the correct help and advice is available to everyone who needs it or to anyone who may have concerns or questions.”
Common myths include:
Myth: Breastfeeding babies need water
Breastfed babies do not need anything other than exclusive breastmilk for the first six months. This is the main form of nutrition alongside solids in the first 12 months as the breast milk changes to the environment.
Myth: Small breasts produce less milk than large breasts
Anatomically both will produce a similar amount.
Myth: You can’t breastfeed if you are on antibiotics
The majority of medication does not affect a mother breastfeeding her baby. Find out more here.
Myth: Newborn babies should be sleeping through the night
Newborn babies may sleep for 18 or so hours a day, but often for only 2-3 hours at a time. They have very small stomachs, and need to feed often, so they wake about every two hours to do so. Find out more here.
Support on offer
Epsom and St Helier offers a range of support to families, including virtual sessions held every Tuesday and Thursday, providing a safe platform to support parents in their own home. You can find out more about these sessions here.
Meanwhile, face-to-face support at home is provided by community teams throughout Covid and is ongoing.
Help and evidence-based information is offered to parents who are formula-feeding at firststepsnutrition.org.uk, with information provided on first feeds in skin contact, choosing first infant milks only in the first 12 months, making up feeds as safely as possible and pace feeding responsively.
The trust also provides twice-weekly antenatal sessions over Zoom, and funds peer-support training for volunteers to support mothers and babies on the postnatal wards. New staff who work in maternity services receive up to 20 hours of infant-feeding education and support, and also undergo yearly training.
On top of this, we run activity events for families. Our last one – in collaboration with Sutton Health and Care Health Visiting Service and Sutton Children's Centres – took place last month to celebrate National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.
Sue adds: “Making sure parents are supported is really important to us. If you feel you would benefit from this support, please visit our website, where you will find details of breastfeeding support clinics in your area and the contact details for the Infant Feeding Team.”
- To find out more about the Baby Friendly initiative and the benefits of breastfeeding, visit: www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/about/benefits-of-breastfeeding/. And to find out more about infant feeding, visit: www.epsom-sthelier.nhs.uk/infant-feeding