0-19 team with the new breastfeeding strategy

(L-R) Celebrating the launch of the Bradford Metropolitan District Breastfeeding Strategy are the Trust’s Alex Horsfall, Jane Dickens and Michelle Smith from the 0-19 Services team

Giving babies the very best start in life whilst reducing infant mortality and childhood obesity is the motivation behind the launch of a new district-wide campaign to protect, promote, support and normalise breastfeeding.

Bradford District Care NHS Foundation Trust, together with Bradford Metropolitan District Council and other key services (including maternity, voluntary sector Doulas, and the Bradford Breastfeeding Buddies), have developed the Bradford Metropolitan District Breastfeeding Strategy over the last year. It sets out how, by working collaboratively, services across the district which make a difference for women, babies and families to support and normalise breastfeeding can be improved.

Having declined rapidly since the 1970s, breastfeeding rates in England are now amongst the lowest in the world; yet evidence shows that human milk is linked to improved educational and social outcomes and a lower risk of infections, obesity and mortality.

Bradford District’s Strategic Breastfeeding Lead Jane Dickens said: “Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and life enhancing human activities, providing all the nutrients and drinks a baby needs until they’re ready for the addition of solid foods at around six months of age.

“Yet less than half of babies in England are receiving any breastmilk at all by the time they are just eight weeks old, even though over 70 per cent of women start breastfeeding. Often women want to breastfeed their baby but experience challenges in doing so, which could potentially be overcome with the right support.”

According to Jane, breastfeeding figures vary widely across Bradford District, with some areas showing over 50 per cent of babies still being breastfed at eight weeks, but in others the figure is less than 20 per cent. The strategy aims to motivate all services to reduce these health inequalities and ensure that all women are supported if they choose to start and continue breastfeeding.

Councillor Adrian Farley, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Children and Families, has been involved in developing the strategy. He said: “I am really pleased that the new Breastfeeding Strategy for Bradford district has launched. This is our opportunity to normalise breastfeeding and introduce ways to support mothers and their babies within the Bradford District with their feeding choice.

“Breastfeeding rates in England are one of the lowest in the world. Many women who do decide to breastfeed very often stop before they want to. Within the Bradford District we need to work together to remove the barriers that may cause this and invest in support. Feeding is a crucial part of the parent-infant relationship and we want to understand and respect the individual needs of women and their babies in supporting their choices.”

The work now underway as part of the strategy includes ensuring pregnant women and their families have the right information at the right time to understand the benefits of breastfeeding, and making sure breastfeeding assistance is available to mums in hospital, at home and in the community.

The work now underway as part of the strategy includes ensuring pregnant women and their families have the right information at the right time to understand the benefits of breastfeeding, and making sure breastfeeding assistance is available to mums in hospital, at home and in the community.

As the strategy is rolled out over the next four years, more people across the district will be trained in supporting mums who have breastfeeding issues. In addition, improved communication between different professional and voluntary services will enable health inequalities to be addressed by identifying areas where additional support is needed.

A joined-up approach across local health services is just part of the ambitious and detailed strategy. Outside of health care environments work is underway to advocate breastfeeding ‘here, there and everywhere’, ensure all public places are breastfeeding welcome, and encourage businesses to adopt breastfeeding policies for staff and the public.

“It’s all about shifting the social norms,” says Jane Dickens. “We need multi-agency commitment to seed a wider societal change, so breastfeeding is once again seen as the socially and biologically normal and pleasurable way to feed babies.”

Download the Breastfeeding Strategy here or for a hard copy or further information please contact Jane Dickens on 07860916747 or email jane.dickens@bdct.nhs.uk