A Better Start

Breastfeeding support

A Better Start
  • Breastmilk is good for babies, but mothers often benefit from support and advice to continue breastfeeding. A Better Start Southend is working with mothers and families to develop a three-part programme of breastfeeding support.

“There is a lot of information online but the one-to-one help that A Better Start Southend gave me was priceless, it gave me confidence and knowledge at a time when motherhood could be quite daunting for a first time parent.”
- Parent receiving one-to-one breastfeeding support through A Better Start Southend

Charlotte Graham

Research highlights that when breastfeeding support is offered to women, the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding is increased[1]

This matters because breastmilk is good for babies, contributing to a range of health outcomes[2]. Furthermore, the use of breastmilk substitutes weakens infants’ immune systems, and impairs their cognitive development, behaviour, and appetite regulation, and it increases women’s risk of developing breast cancer, and probably also ovarian cancer and Type 2 diabetes[3].

And yet, less than 1% of babies are exclusively breastfed at six months in the UK[4], as recommended by the World Health Organisation. All too often, in the absence of skilled help and advice, women encounter problems they cannot resolve and decide to supplement breastmilk or stop breastfeeding altogether[5].

A Better Start Southend (ABSS) is responding to these issues through a range of measures to encourage mothers to breastfeed. ABSS bases its work on the belief that children can achieve better outcomes when they and their families receive effective and consistent professional support and that there is improved health at individual, family and community levels. We talk to the families we support to understand what they care about, show that their voice matters and develop the services we offer to best support their needs.

In relation to breastfeeding, this has led us to develop a breastfeeding ‘offer’ based on a three-pronged approach: one-to-one support, group work and the Southend Supports Breastfeeding scheme. We want women to know that they are supported, and that ABSS is here to guide and encourage them with how they choose to feed their baby.

One-to-one support

Working with Southend University Hospital Foundation Trust, we are proud to have rolled out a project to help women with one-to-one breastfeeding support, delivered face-to-face in the home. This support starts just before the birth of a child and lasts several weeks into the postnatal period, providing mothers with advice and guidance on all aspects of breastfeeding. The results are encouraging: over 90% of women take up the offer of support, and data shows that 42% of these women are continuing to breastfeed their child at six weeks.

Breastfeeding groups

Support is also offered to women and their families through our breastfeeding groups, run every week throughout the year. As well as advice and information, these groups offer an opportunity to meet other mothers and families and create a peer support network. Breastfeeding can sometimes be a lonely journey, albeit a rewarding one, and the support groups that ABSS offers have a positive impact on mothers’ experiences. Women tell us they would have “stopped without the group support”; that they “feel listened to”; and that they are “not the only person who struggles with breastfeeding: it’s normal, it’s OK”.

Southend Supports Breastfeeding

The final part of the jigsaw is work with Southend Borough Council on the ‘Southend Supports Breastfeeding’ campaign which enables mothers to feel confident to breastfeed in public places. We encourage public venues across the borough to welcome families who want to breastfeed their babies, so they can do so in comfort and without interruption or embarrassment. The campaign is co-produced by parents and professionals working together.

Through this three-part programme we want to help mothers to confidently breastfeed their child. We know that many women give up breastfeeding sooner than they hoped: research shows that 8 out of 10 women stop breastfeeding before they want to[6]. That’s a feeling we are committed to changing and a statistic we will to continue to work to improve.

Charlotte Graham is Project Manager (Diet and Nutrition Workstream Lead) at A Better Start Southend

Useful resources

About A Better Start

A Better Start is a ten-year (2015-2025), £215 million programme set-up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. Five A Better Start partnerships based in Blackpool, Bradford, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend are supporting families to give their babies and very young children the best possible start in life. Working with local parents, the A Better Start partnerships are developing and testing ways to improve their children’s diet and nutrition, social and emotional development, and speech, language and communication. The work of the programme is grounded in scientific evidence and research. A Better Start is place-based and enabling systems change. It aims to improve the way that organisations work together and with families to shift attitudes and spending towards preventing problems that can start in early life. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier

The National Children’s Bureau is coordinating an ambitious programme of shared learning for A Better Start, disseminating the partnerships’ experiences in creating innovative services far and wide, so that others working in early childhood development or place-based systems change can benefit.

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[1] Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies - https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001141.pub5/full

[2] NHS: Benefits of Breastfeeding: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/benefits-breastfeeding/

[3] Enabling breastfeeding for mothers and babies - https://www.cochranelibrary.com/collections/doi/10.1002/14651858.SC000027/full

[4] Enabling breastfeeding for mothers and babies (Ibid.)

[5] Enabling breastfeeding for mothers and babies (Ibid.)

[6] Blog: Supporting breastfeeding, We know what works; let's make it happen - https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/supporting-breastfeeding-make-it-happen