Breastfeeding Support

Recently, an article in the Lancet reported that the UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.
So why are more mothers not breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed a baby – mothers have been feeding their babies in this way since mankind began – it can’t be that hard can it?
Or can it?
In 2010, 81% of mothers initiated breastfeeding at birth. After one week, the breastfeeding rate drops to 69%, and to just 55% at six weeks. At six months, just over a third of babies are still receiving breastmilk. Exclusive breastfeeding rates (i.e. just breastfeeding with no use of formula or solid foods) are even lower. The world Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and continuing to breastfeed into the second year of life and beyond. The Infant feeding Survey also tells us that the majority of mothers who gave up breastfeeding in the first few weeks would have liked to continue breastfeeding for longer.
So what is happening? It seems that mothers want to breastfeed but are not enabled to do so. Here are some of the key issues that mothers discuss at the breastfeeding drop-in group that I run.

Am I doing it right?

Some of the problems cited as causing mothers to stop breastfeeding are sore nipples and insufficient milk. Often, when a mother has become sore when breastfeeding, it can be due to the way that baby is latched. The latch is how the baby attaches to the breast to feed – there are many factors that can affect the latch but possibly most common is the positioning of the baby whilst feeding. There are a variety of positions to use, and in the early weeks with a new baby it is a case of experimenting to find what is most comfortable for mum and baby. You can find more information on positions to try here
Once your baby is latched you can look for signs of a good latch such as baby’s head tilted back slightly, mouth open wide, chin tucked into breast, cheeks full and rounded, and more of the areola (darker area around nipple) visible above rather than below mouth – see here for more info.
Ultimately feeding should be comfortable for mum and baby should be drinking (you may hear swallowing and see movement at your baby’s temple as he/she feeds)

How do I know if my baby is getting enough?

It can hard to feel confident as a new parent. Often when a breastfeeding mum encounters difficulties with her baby, it is her ability to produce enough milk, or milk that is of a good enough quality that is questioned. However our bodies are really very good at providing exactly what our baby needs, and contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding mums do not need to eat a specific diet, nor drink vast quantities of fluids to maintain a good milk supply (see here)
In fact the best way to ensure a good milk supply is to follow babies cues for feeding, and to feed for as long as, and as frequently as baby requires. Babies may cue for a feed for reasons other than just milk – it is comfort, reassurance and love all rolled into one. Feeds may not have a regular pattern, certainly in the early days, but a baby needs to feed 8-10 times in 24 hours to be able to receive enough milk.

As your baby feeds, your body is stimulated to make more milk. In fact our bodies make milk 24 hours a day; the rate increases whilst the baby is at the breast so a mother will not run out of milk if she is feeding according to her baby’s cues. It is very normal for babies to cluster feed, often in the evenings. Babies also go through growth spurts when they will feed frequently for a few days – this stimulates the mum to produce more milk to meet the baby’s increased needs. It takes a few days for our body to catch up with what our baby is doing, which is why the baby may seem unsettled until the milk production increases.
One way to tell if your baby is getting enough milk is to look at nappy contents. A baby who is under a week old should wee and poo every day. After this, some babies will poo less frequently, and some breastfed babies can go many days before passing a poo. Have a look here for more information.

I find it hard to position my baby

Babies need to learn to breastfeed, just as mums do. A wonderful way to learn together is to enjoy some skin to skin time. Babies love this contact with mums (it is equally important for babies to have skin to skin time with dads too). When you are in skin to skin contact your body produces lots of oxytocin, the hormone that drives breastfeeding, and also promotes bonding. Your baby’s oxytocin level also increases which helps them feel calm and relaxed, which in turn helps them to follow through on their own reflexes to breastfeed.

If breastfeeding is not going as smoothly as hoped, enjoying skin to skin time, in a relaxed position with your baby on top of your body so that you are tummy to tummy, can help take the stress out of breastfeeding and allow mum and baby to enjoy just being together. Have a look here for more information about using this position to help breastfeeding.

I need help!

Support plays a major part in a woman’s ability to establish and continue breastfeeding. Dads can be the first line of that necessary support. Dads can provide emotional support (telling her she is doing a great job and how proud he is of her) as well as practical support (simple measures such as making a snack or a drink for her whilst she is feeding can help the mum feel comfortable and able to keep breastfeeding). Sometimes it is the Dad who thinks to reach out for further support – ringing the midwife or health visitor, or a breastfeeding counsellor. It is very difficult to know what is normal when you have never experienced something, and new parents often have many questions concerning their care for their new baby. No health practitioner minds being asked such questions – and no question is too silly to ask.
Support groups can be a valuable source of information, and equally important, allow new parents to meet others who are very often going through similar experiences. This can enable the new parent to feel more relaxed knowing that what they are experiencing is common, and in turn may feel more confident in being able to meet their baby’s needs. I run a breastfeeding drop-in group at Cannington, Somerset and the mums often say how helpful it is to come along and chat with other breastfeeding mums. They enjoy the group describing it as ‘warm and welcoming’; that they ‘feel listened to’ and that support and information they receive is ‘very helpful’. One mother wrote ‘the Breastfeeding drop-in has been an oasis for us – somewhere to go for a hot cup of tea and be able to chat to other like minded mums’. Another wrote ‘If I had not had the support in feeding my two children I could not have continued’. Another mum said ‘the group was like a haven – I got a lot of benefit from the group for tips on sleeping’.

Support and information may also be sought from midwives, maternity care assistants, breastfeeding counsellors (try NCT, ABM or La Leche League) or lactation consultants, through telephone helplines, or breastfeeding clinics. To find your local breastfeeding group, you could ask your health visitor or midwife, or phone one of the national helplines listed below:

  • NCT 0300 330 0700
  • La Leche League 0845 120 2918
  • ABM 0300 330 5453

In this article I have only covered a small selection of tips that may be helpful to you whilst breastfeeding – if breastfeeding is proving a challenge or you feel that you are struggling, then please get the information and support to enable you to continue to feed for as long as you and your baby wish.



I first encountered NCT when I signed up for their antenatal classes when I was pregnant with our first child in 2001. Little did I imagine at that point that being involved with this amazing charity would eventually lead to me developing a career that has taken me in directions that I would never have thought possible.
The NCT Antenatal classes provided me with information and support and enabled me to develop confidence in myself and my ability to birth and breastfeed. At a time when none of our friends were having children, our NCT class introduced us to other local parents-to-be and we all formed a close bond through the mutual support that we provided for each other when our babies were born.
By the time I was having our second child, some of my other friends had started families of their own. They turned to me as an ‘experienced mum’, for breastfeeding support. Although I had breastfed my first and second child, I felt I wanted to be able to have the background knowledge and training to offer one to one support to other mothers. I decided to train as an NCT breastfeeding counsellor. I discovered that I loved the NCT style of facilitation, and the course content which covered breastfeeding knowledge, counselling skills and adult learning theory and practice all fuelled my passion for supporting new parents.
I qualified as an NCT breastfeeding counsellor in 2010. Part of my new role was to facilitate the breastfeeding session of an NCT antenatal course. I have to admit I was not looking forward to it – I have never been a particularly confident person, and certainly never relished the thought of standing up in front of a group and talking. However I found I really enjoyed the sessions, and from the feedback that I received it seemed that the parents enjoyed them too.
I live in rural area of Somerset, and felt very aware of the limited services for anyone in my area, but especially new mothers. There was no local breastfeeding support, so when I heard that a new children’s centre was to be built in the next village, I contacted the area manager and requested a meeting (something else that I never imagined I would do!) I put forward my idea of having a local breastfeeding drop-in group, and the manager appointed me – to run one locally and two more in the Bridgwater area. Three years later, the contract had to be terminated due to funding cuts, but I was determined to keep a group going. I applied to Awards for All, and in January 2014 I was able to open the Cannington Baby Cafe. The word spread about what mums could gain from attending such a group – warm, friendly, non-judgemental breastfeeding support and information (all values at the core of NCT). Mums travelled from across Somerset to attend the group where they could meet other mums and importantly, enjoy a hot drink! Sadly the funding ran out a year later, but since then I have secured another group to re-open as an NCT drop-in, and also to fund some training for peer supporters who will be able to help support the group as the attendance has grown.
Today I continue to facilitate the group and breastfeeding classes. Last year I qualified with the NCT to facilitate their new antenatal course, ‘Essentials’ and I have loved being able to work with parents through such an important time in their life. It was a desire to offer more support in the antenatal and early postnatal period that also led me to train as a NCT doula. Today I work as an independent doula, but my training and the support I received whilst attending the NCT course was exemplary.
Supporting people in their journey to parenthood my passion – my training and my work with NCT has led me down many new paths, given me new skills and so much more confidence in myself and working with other professionals.
And the best part of all is how many wonderful parents I have had the privilege to work with, at what is often their most vulnerable, challenging, exhausting, rewarding and exciting time of their life.

Baby Cafe launches in Cannington, Somerset, UK


On the 13th January 2014, local breastfeeding mums gathered at Cannington United Reform Church for the opening of the newest Baby Cafe. We were joined by local health visitors and midwives, the MP for Bridgwater Ian Liddell-Grainger and the councillor for Cannington, Ian Dyer. All enjoyed meeting and chatting over lovely refreshments including a beautiful celebration cake made for the event by my good friend (and one of the mums from my original breastfeeding group) Emma Chillingworth of Rainbow Bakes. Everyone was very impressed and supportive of the new group.

I applied for and received a grant of £5000 from Awards for All to set up the Baby Cafe, and I was delighted to see so many mums attending. I am well aware that support is one of the key factors in enabling mums to establish and keep breastfeeding – new mums gain confidence and support, meeting other mums in a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, and I am there each week to offer one to one breastfeeding support or information. We also have a selection of books that are available to borrow, as well as useful leaflets and DVDs covering breastfeeding and related baby topics such as weaning and sleep.

The Baby Cafe charity, established in the UK in 2000, coordinates a network of breastfeeding drop-in centres and other services to support breastfeeding mothers across the UK and other parts of the world – there are now groups as far afield as the Channel Islands, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States!

Baby Cafe drop-ins support 7,800 mums annually – in total mothers make 30,500 visits to Baby cafe drop-ins , with the drop-ins offering  7,500 hours of support annually. Baby Cafes are run by health professionals such as midwives, health visitors, or lactation consultants. They may also be run by healthcare practioners e.g. nursery nurse or maternity support worker, or by breastfeeding counsellors. The most common reason for attending Baby Cafe drop-ins is for the social support gained from being with other breastfeeding mums. Close behind are the specific issues for which mums seek professional  support (sleep issues, starting solids, expressing milk and milk supply issues)

99% of mums surveyed find their Baby Cafe drop-in ‘very helpful’ or ‘helpful’

 All pregnant and breastfeeding mums are welcome to drop in at any time during opening hours. Partners are welcome too. Cannington baby Cafe runs every Monday except bank holidays, 10.30am-12pm at Cannington United Reform Church, high Street Cannington.

Contact me through my website at or see for more details

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Welcome to my first post as a new blogger!

I hope to share with you articles on the subject of birth, breastfeeding and the journey through early parenthood that I feel may be useful, inspirational and informative.

I would like to start with this is amazing story of a mother being enabled to do something she never dreamt she could – but you may need the tissues when reading it!