It’s National Breastfeeding week!
This week is a great opportunity to celebrate breastfeeding, share experiences, answer questions and promote the support that’s available out there to help parents on their feeding journeys. That’s why we sat down with our Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich Infant Feeding Specialists, Anna, Zoe and Anita, to talk about all things breastfeeding.
What is an ‘Infant Feeding Specialist’ and how do you support families during the breastfeeding journey?
The overall goal of the Infant Feeding Specialist is to work with parents to find and support the best ways of feeding your baby. And of course, everyone is different so we’re here to work with you to understand your journey, set achievable, realistic goals and empower you to reach these. We can also troubleshoot with you when things change, if you’re concerned about anything related to feeding, or things may not be going as expected. We have 1-1 appointments, group sessions and infant feeding drop-in clinics in Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich where we can give support.
There are so many different issues and worries that new parents face. We always make sure to look at the whole picture - chatting with parents individually to get a sense of their overall lives, their history, their needs, and then working together to come up with feeding goals. Then we like to watch a full feed and work with them to develop a plan. With the right support, most issues and concerns can be resolved reasonably quickly so we would recommend getting support as early as possible.
How important is it for parents to receive support and guidance during breastfeeding, and how can our service help?
According to UNICEF UK, 8 out of 10 women are stopping breastfeeding before they want to, primarily because they feel they haven't had access to support at the right time. In Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich, we run multiple drop-in clinics across each borough which you can access before you’ve had a new birth visit. We also work with maternity services, so that you can access specialised clinical support exactly when you need it. For example, in Bromley, the team operates a drop-in group with the maternity service and midwives from the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH).
It's really encouraging to see parents growing in their confidence. Once, at the drop-in clinic, I saw a mum with an unsettled baby who was screaming at her breast. After talking with her, watching her feed and making some minor adjustments, we were able to improve the baby’s comfort and latch. The mum couldn't believe it, and said she was so glad she came because she wouldn't have made these changes on her own, but they've made a huge difference.
How do we ensure a welcoming and inclusive environment for parents and carers who may face cultural, social, or practical barriers to breastfeeding?
We want to provide safe, welcome spaces for all parents and their partners – whatever your needs, background, culture or gender – we are here for you.
At our group drop-ins, we recognise that, whilst breastfeeding is not something that needs to be concealed, some parents may have specific cultural or privacy needs, so we provide screens to ensure privacy and comfort at our group drop-ins. The group drop-ins can be a great way for parents to meet others and connect with their experiences too.
We also offer 1-1 clinics for people who don't feel comfortable in a group setting, especially when discussing personal issues. We address practical barriers like space or access to the clinics, by organising our clinics on different days and locations in the boroughs to ensure that you can access a clinic when you need it.
Our staff receive training to approach every situation with sensitivity and understanding, so are ready to offer support tailored to people’s different needs. We are also always asking feedback from parents so that we can make adjustments to our services.
We can connect you to other community services, like the Children's Centres, activities and mum groups where you’ll be able to also have that peer support.
We see, hear and read a lot about breastfeeding – things like forums and social media can add so much unneeded pressure and expectations to parents. Here are some big ones:
Myth: Breastfeeding is going to be easy and natural.
Truth: Breastfeeding often needs learning and different approaches for each baby, even if you’ve had a baby before because they are all different.
Myth: You can spoil the baby and they should feed every three hours and be in kind of a routine.
Truth: In reality, babies are just like us – sometimes we're hungry and sometimes we're not. We need to respond to our baby's needs, just like we respond to our needs when we're hungry.
Myth: If I've got a big baby, I can't make enough milk / my baby is really hungry and so I mustn't have enough milk.
Truth: Our bodies respond based on our baby's needs. People have been able to feed quadruplets with just breastfeeding because our bodies respond to how much need; we call it demand and supply. So, if a baby is asking for more milk, our body will then make more milk. We try to teach parents how to look out for signs that the baby is getting enough milk: look for the wet and the dirty nappies, is the baby alert, awake and content between feeds or very lethargic - alert is the good sign and is the baby waking up for feeds and settling (even if it's just for a short time after the feed), we also look at the weight gain – do feel your baby getting heavier and growing.
What resources or services do we offer to support people who may need additional assistance beyond infant feeding clinics or sessions?
We often refer to the tongue-tie service or Paediatrics or to a Dietitian. We work together with community support and the hospitals to give you extra support where needed, making sure that we’re communicating this with you.
Why is it important for partners to be involved and supportive in the breastfeeding journey, and how do can they help?
We've found that the biggest impact on someone’s breastfeeding journey is their support person. If they understand and are supportive of it, the mums are more likely to push through any issues. Therefore, we encourage partners to come along to the groups so that they can help the mum when they're back at home.
Partners and families can help breastfeeding mums in other ways like making sure mum is fed and watered while she is feeding the baby, helping with nappy changing, bath times, housework or take the baby out on a walk to give mum a rest. Anything that will relieve the stress for mum.
Lastly, what advice or messages would you like to give to parents who are considering breastfeeding or struggling with challenges in their breastfeeding journey?
Early support is key. If you’re struggling, we highly recommend you come to clinics and get support. Equally, before the baby's even born, it's good to attend antenatal classes to talk about breastfeeding, what to expect and the reality of it.
We also know that things can change quickly – you may have a great day and the next may be challenging – so we encourage you to access support at any time. If you’re ever unsure, please do get in touch.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read our interview. We hope you’ve found this helpful.
Whether you’re a new or experienced parent, breastfeeding can be a beautiful and sometimes challenging journey. But you’re never alone! Our team are all trained in line with UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative standards and we’re here for you. Remember, we’re always here to help you and your little ones. Don’t hesitate to seek support and let us be part of your breastfeeding success story.
Attend our drop-in clinics for guidance and advice:
Reach out to our teams on 0300 330 5777 or email:
National Breastfeeding Helpline: 0300 100 0212
Written by Sophy Jeremy, Communications Assistant at Bromley Healthcare.