Help is at hand all over Sheffield for mums who have problems or questions about breastfeeding.
Joanne Powell, one of the city’s breastfeeding support workers, said: “Basically we’re there for support to mums who are breastfeeding or thinking about it. We start as early as we can ante-natally to build a relationship and build that contact.
“We contact mums as early as we can when they are home from hospital, within 48 hours of them getting home if we can, to let them know the support’s there and see where they’re at.
“They may be getting on fine or need some support straightaway. We link up closely with midwives and health visitors.
“Depending on the needs determines how long we continue support. This can include home visits and telling them about support groups. These are drop-in sessions or groups held on a weekly basis in every area of the city.”
At present the group are held in children’s centres but some are being moved to community centres where council budget cuts have put centres under threat of closure. Joanne said there is still a support worker in every area of the city.
She said that the support workers can give advice on the practicalities of breastfeeding and any problems, plus helping mums get started with expressing milk, for instance if they are returning to work.
She said that the benefits of breastfeeding for mums includes protection against breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis later in life. She said that many mums also find it very empowering.
Joanne added: “Day to day we want make a really comfortable environment for people and give them the confidence to build a breastfeeding culture up.
“My children are 23 and 21. Things were very, very different then. You did almost feel you wanted to be swallowed up if you breastfed.
“I didn’t have any negative experiences, it was more my feeling about it.
“I wasn’t aware there were a lot of women breastfeeding as they weren’t publicly doing that. We need to build public awareness to break down the barriers.
“Some women feel very vulnerable when they’ve just had a baby. We’re giving them the confidence to do this.”
Debbie Hanson, public health assistant services manager for children and young people, said that a Facebook page, Breastfeeding in Sheffield, had proved very helpful. She said that mums can post problems on the page and someone will answer them.
Debbie said: “This award just recognises the fact that we really value the fact that breastfeeding is important.”
Claire Robinson, breastfeeding friendly co-ordinator for public health, said that Sheffield has the highest breastfeeding rates in Yorkshire and the Humber at six to eight weeks.
She said: “We’re try to change the culture so that women can breastfeed outside the home.
“We’re helping mums to get over first few weeks when you’ve got problems, and allowing them to continue.
“We have a breastfeeding friendly award scheme and just under 300 venues are breastfeeding-friendly.
“They offer support and are comfortable and welcoming, not sending mums to a toilet or asking them to leave if somebody complains.”
A website just being developed, Breastfeeding in Sheffield, will have a list of venues. A Breast Start phone app is also available for smart phones.
Coun Jackie Drayton, Sheffield City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, praised the work being done.
She said: “It is just amazing for Sheffield to achieve this UNICEF Baby Friendly award and to be just one of a handful of places to have received it. Well done to all involved in making Sheffield a great place to live and visit for mums and babies.
“I would encourage all new mums and mums-to-be to breastfeed if they can. I did it with my children and I found it a hugely rewarding experience.
“Not only is it great for babies, but it also has health benefits for mums and best of all can help new mums to lose the baby bulge quicker and now you can do it anytime and anywhere in Sheffield.”