A healthy diet starts at birth - with breastfeeding believed to be one of the best ways to beat obesity in later life. But how practical and comfortable is it for new mums to breastfeed in public in Sheffield? Star reporter Rachael Clegg spoke to three city mums to find out.
UNTIL 16 months ago, Heather Sawrey knew nothing about breastfeeding.
But that didn’t matter when the time came. “The baby took to it straight away,” said Heather. “It was so easy right from the start - I was very lucky.”
Heather, aged 35, is mum to 16-month-old Liffy, who is still being breastfed.
To Heather, from Burngreave, breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, which is why she sees no problem with breastfeeding in public.
And, luckily, Sheffield is one of the most breastfeeding-friendly places in the UK. Last year the city launched a huge campaign, in conjunction with the NHS’s Change4Life programme, to support breastfeeding in the city.
And of all the cities in the north of England, Sheffield has the highest rate of breastfeeding women with babies aged six to eight weeks.
The campaign included a huge push to encourage venues across the city, from cafés to sports centres, to sign up to breastfeeding-friendly principles.
Heather said: “Liffy and I are social butterflies now! We go to lots of cafes in Sheffield and we’ve never had a problem with anyone.
“All the places we’ve been to have been really accepting of breastfeeding.
“We go to The Blue Moon Café in the city centre quite a lot as I’m vegan and they’re great with us.
“And Heeley City Farm café is also a great place to go when you’re breastfeeding, the staff are very helpful there and they’ll bring food and drinks over to you.”
Emma Pritchard, 36, is another mum with positive breastfeeding experiences in Sheffield.
She and baby Samuel, three months, meet friends regularly in cafés across Sheffield and she says they have had no issues anywhere as far as breastfeeding is concerned.
“Generally most places I’ve been to in Sheffield have been really nice about it, though some places are hard to get into with a buggy.
“The John Lewis café is great about breastfeeding, and The Forum is a really nice place to go, too.
“We also go to a place called Buttercup in Hillsborough - they make lovely cupcakes and are really supportive of mums breastfeeding.
“And me and my pals have been known to sit outside Nonnas on Ecclesall Road breastfeeding all at once on a nice day!
“We also meet up at The Riverside pub in Hillsborough, which is also friendly.”
Emma, from Hillsborough, is a regular at Hillsborough Children’s Centre where fellow mum Emma Pestereff, 35, runs a Breastfeeding Café.
She said: “There is so much support for breastfeeding mothers in Sheffield - we are one of the most breastfeeding-friendly cities in the country.”
Emma, also from Hillsborough, and mum to four-year-old Charlotte, hasn’t always worked as a breastfeeding support worker. She previously managed a men’s suit shop in Meadowhall.
“I was managing a store and really struggled with breastfeeding when I first started, but I had a fantastic breastfeeding support worker who really helped me and that inspired me to do this as a job.”
The campaign to encourage more mothers to breastfeed is based on expert opinion that breastfeeding reduces a child’s likelihood later in life of becoming obese or developing type two diabetes, asthma or eczema.
It is also thought to reduce the mother’s likelihood of developing ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
But the overwhelming acceptance of breastfeeding mums throughout Sheffield’s venues also suggests something else - that attitudes to breastfeeding have changed since the last generation of mothers were feeding their babies.
Heather’s 60-year old mum, Pam Randle, says society is now far more open about breastfeeding than it used to be.
“I was born seven years after the war so it was an entirely different generation then,” she said.
“When I was a child, breastfeeding was something people just didn’t do in public - and that’s how my parents brought me up.
“I don’t think people even discussed these things with anyone.
“Even today, if I was young enough to have children, I wouldn’t be comfortable breastfeeding in public.
“But I don’t have a problem with people that do - that’s what boobs are made for! I think it’s good that these days women find it easy to breastfeed anywhere.”
But there is a perceived snobbery, among some new mothers, about formula-feeding babies, as Emma Pritchard has observed.
“There is a certain type of woman, usually older and professional, who has an expectancy to breastfeed, and there is a little bit of snobbery about women who have chosen to bottle feed,” she admits.
But for Emma there’s no question as to the importance of breastfeeding. “It lets you bond with the baby,” she says. “And it’s the most natural thing in the world.”
MORE than 52 per cent of mums in Sheffield with babies aged six to eight weeks are still breastfeeding - the highest rate outside the South of England.
Last summer Sheffield was awarded the accolade ‘Breastfeeding Capital of the North’.
The Department of Health recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life.
The Department of Health is keen to encourage Britain to be a nation whose babies are - on the whole - breastfed.
It is believed just a 10 per cent increase in breastfeeding rates could avoid 1,700 cases of child ear infections, 3,900 cases of gastro-enteritis cases, and 1,500 cases of asthma, saving the NHS at least £5.6m over four years.