Breastfeeding may not be a walk in the park for all mums, but help is at hand.
Dedicated health visitors in south-east Hampshire can provide tips and techniques for women who may be having difficulty getting their baby to latch on.
And children’s centres across the area host mother-baby support groups so women can relax, share experiences with each other and enjoy a social element.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Week runs until Friday and is supported by three main health providers for the area – Solent NHS Trust, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital.
Mum-of-two Lucy Howell, 20, says she’s extremely grateful to the help she received with her youngest, Daniel, who’s nine months old.
Lucy, of Mantle Close, Rowner, an Open University psychology student, says: ‘I wasn’t successful with Hannah when it came to breastfeeding.
‘I was very young when I had her and tried for three weeks before I stopped.
‘But when I became pregnant with Daniel I was determined to make it work. I started going to breastfeeding groups when I was pregnant and found so much information. When Daniel was born I set myself little targets like I would breastfeed for three weeks and see how he got on. He took to it really well so I decided to go on to four months.
‘It’s going so well that I’ve decided to carry on feeding him until he’s two years old, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation.’
Lucy found help at the Rowner Children’s Centre and encourages new mums and mums-to-be to check out local centres for help and support.
She adds: ‘Being in a centre is really social and you can speak to other mums about their experiences.
‘It was fundamental in helping me breastfeed the second time round. It’s important I tried because it helps me feel close to Daniel and I know what’s in my milk as it’s whatever I’ve eaten.
‘I don’t have to worry about cleaning bottles or making sure I have enough formula in the house – it’s just brilliant.’
Mum Liz Adams, 33, told her husband Matt Timms, 40, that she definitely wanted to breastfeed their firstborn.
Liz, of Fay Close, in Stubbington, works as a midwife at QA, and has had a lot of experience in supporting mums.
She says: ‘Nothing can prepare you fully to become a mum until you become one.
‘I knew I wanted to breastfeed and told my partner, who was very supportive.’
Their daughter Edie Adams, who is four-and-a-half months old had an impacted delivery and didn’t latch on to Liz’s breast until she was a month old.
But determined to make sure she still had breast milk, Liz would put her milk in a pipette and let Evie suck on it as her mum held it.
Liz says: ‘I didn’t want to introduce her to a bottle and wanted to keep her ready for breastfeeding.
‘I had said if she didn’t latch on by 12 weeks then I would consider something else, but she did in four weeks.
‘If you want to breastfeed but want help then there is so much help. There’s wonderful support at QA and in children’s centres.’
Southern Health provides community services to Hampshire, including Havant, Waterlooville, Fareham and Gosport, and is accredited for the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI), which is given by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Karen Sheldon is a trainer for the BFI, a health visitor and a breastfeeding champion for Southern Health.
She says more women are becoming comfortable with breastfeeding, including in public spaces.
She says: ‘By training our staff and keeping them updated, we are able to help mothers in a structured way.
‘Gosport has low deprivation levels and has a high level of young mums.
‘But many have been unsure about breastfeeding or not had full support. By going to children’s centres and speaking to trained health visitors, we are able to support more mums and make it normal.
‘It’s not just about promoting breastfeeding – if women want help with bottle feeding then we can help with that too.’
Solent NHS Trust runs community services in the Portsmouth area and is celebrating as it has received BFI accreditation, along with children’s centres in the city, who work closely with the trust.
The award follows a rigorous inspection that included interviewing mothers, who were randomly selected as well as site visits to check the trust had trained staff and established plans to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and to strengthen mother-baby and family relationships.
Amanda Malthouse, a breastfeeding specialist practitioner, says: ‘We decided to join forces with Unicef UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative to increase breastfeeding rates and to improve care for all mothers in Portsmouth.
‘Breastfeeding protects babies against a wide range of serious illnesses including gastroenteritis and respiratory infections in infancy as well as asthma, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in later life.
‘We know that breastfeeding reduces the mother’s risk of some cancers – although mums might be more interested in hearing that it is easier, cheaper and simply less hassle than bottle feeding.’
The Baby Friendly Initiative, set up by Unicef and the World Health Organisation, is a global programme which provides a practical and effective way for health services to improve the care provided for all mothers and babies.
The award is given to organisations after an assessment by a Unicef team has shown that recognised best practice standards are in place.
Baby Friendly Initiative programme director Sue Ashmore says: ‘We’re delighted that Solent NHS Trust has achieved full baby-friendly status.
‘Surveys show us that most mothers want to breastfeed but don’t always get the support they need. Mothers in Portsmouth can be confident that the health visitors at Solent will provide high standards of care.’
To find out more information about breastfeeding clinics in the area, call the Breastfeeding Network on 0300 100 0210.
Ten top tips
Amanda Malthouse, Solent NHS Trust’s specialist practitioner breastfeeding, has given top 10 tips on why breast is best:
1. Skin-to-skin contact helps mum and baby establish breastfeeding and to feel calmer.
2. Newborns have tiny tummies. Your breasts produce a few teaspoonfuls of milk to start with, but this is all a baby needs.
3. Breastfeeding is more likely to be successful if mum is supported by her partner and family.
4. Getting positioning and attachment right from the start is really important – the baby can drink well and mum doesn’t get sore.
5. Every feed has benefits for baby and mum whether you choose to feed for days, weeks or months.
6. The more often you feed your baby, the more milk your breasts will produce – keeping up with the baby’s growing needs.
7. Breastfeeding protects the baby against chest, ear and urinary infections and diarrhoea. It can also reduce the likelihood of eczema and asthma.
8. A baby is feeding well when they pass at least six wees and two poos a day; is settled, gaining weight and mum feels comfortable too.
9. Breast milk is free. No need for expensive formula, bottles and sterilising equipment.
10. Breastfeeding ensures babies have lots of close contact with their mums which helps their brains grow and develop.
For more information and support, contact the Breastfeeding Support and Healthy Weight Team on (023) 9285 1350.