A breastfeeding mum has praised a new initiative that is helping her and other parents find friendly and welcoming locations to breastfeed their babies across Essex.
Jess Stewart, 28, from Colchester (pictured) is backing the scheme being run by the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service that’s encouraging organisations to register as Breastfeeding Friendly Locations so mums have the confidence to breastfeed in public.
“I think it’s wonderful that businesses are partnering up with this scheme,” Jess said. “It should give new and experienced mums some degree of ease when choosing where to feed their baby. It can be a minefield because everyone is different in their feeding preferences.
“As a breastfeeding mum, I find the friendliness of a shop or café venue really important. I remember before my eldest daughter was born I was really scared about potentially having to fend off hostile looks and comments, to the point that when I fed her for the first time in public I was more concerned about others around me than my baby.
“I’ve been lucky in that I’ve been breastfeeding my children for two and half years and I’ve never had a single negative comment. But I know people whose first (or subsequent) feeds weren’t so nice, and this can have a major impact on a breastfeeding mum’s confidence (and even their breastfeeding journey),” she added.
On average, 80% of new mums start off breastfeeding but many stop shortly after for a variety of reasons. This drops to less than 50% of new mums continuing to breastfeed when their baby is six to eight weeks old.
Parents often report that they give up breastfeeding earlier than they wanted to. One of the reasons for this is because some parents say they struggle to find a place they find welcoming to breastfeed when out and about.
Jess recently visited Wyvale Garden Café – one of a number of organisations to register as a Breastfeeding Friendly Location – and was delighted with her experience. She said it was clear to see the scheme was working well.
Asda, Costa Coffee and McDonald’s are other high-profile organisations to register with the scheme. The Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service’s Family Hubs – where it delivers services – and Essex Libraries are also breastfeeding friendly.
Breastfeeding friendly locations can be spotted by window stickers put up by organisations that are supporting the initiative or online through the dedicated Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service website: essexfamilywellbeing.co.uk/breastfeeding-friendly-locations/.
Jess said: “It just shows that they are considerate of you feeding your baby and it can give people confidence that the patrons around them are also ‘breastfeeding friendly’. If these signs can indicate this is the case, it will contribute towards mums feeling more at ease feeding in public.”
Essex’s Healthy Family Teams, which are made up of health visitors, school nurses and healthy family practitioners, are also supporting mums with helpful tips on how to breastfeed when they’re out and about in public.
As part of National Breastfeeding Week (25-29 June), the service is encouraging more local businesses to sign up and support mums by registering for free online at essexfamilywellbeing.co.uk/register-your-business-as-baby-friendly-location/. They will be provided with a breastfeeding friendly pack including a certificate and window sticker.
Dionne Wilson, Public Health Specialist and Infant Feeding Lead for the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service, said: “Mums can go out and about in their local community with the comfort of knowing they are welcome to breastfeed without interruption. Whether at one of our Family Hubs, an Essex Library or at the number of premises supporting this initiative, we’re all doing our bit to help mums breastfeed for longer, reducing health inequalities for babies to improve life chances.”
Organisations seeking to become a breastfeeding friendly location or for more information can contact Dionne on Dionne.Wilson@virgincare.co.uk