Sheffield mums and babies have been celebrating with breastfeeding picnics after the city scooped a prestigious UNICEF Baby Friendly award.
The city joins a handful of places which have been recognised both for hospital and community services.
Two picnics were held in the Winter Gardens last week to celebrate the accolade and Breastfeeding Awareness Week. The idea was for mums to feed their babies openly, to help make it more socially acceptable.
There was also a display of ‘boob hats’ for babies and parents, which volunteers have knitted. They were available for a donation towards the awareness week work.
The Baby Friendly Initiative was set up by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation and is a global programme aimed at providing a practical and effective way for local services to improve the care for mothers and babies, including enabling successful breastfeeding.
Harriet Fisher, mum of William, aged six months, said she breastfed him from birth.
Harriet, from Hillsborough, said: “I got great support. I go up to the children’s centre at Shooters Grove, Stannington.
“It’s the social aspect, a chance to meet other mums. They can answer any questions related to the baby or for the mum. As a first-time mum it’s been really valuable.”
Harriet says that people often ask her questions when they see her breastfeeding but she hasn’t had a negative response. “It’s curiosity. They ask why are you still feeding him past six months?
“I tell them because it’s the best for him. Why wouldn’t I? It’s free and easy.”
Kiri De La Haye from Barnsley, is mum of Clark, aged 12 weeks. She attends events organised by the Sheffield Slings Facebook group, for mums who use slings to carry their babies.
They advertise get-togethers for mums including at St Thomas’s Church, Philadelphia once a fortnight. Any mum who is a member can create an event on the page and invite the others.
Kiri said: “I felt really alone at first. I knew a friend through work who told me about it. I found other mums and went that way.”
She said she has had pressure to stop breastfeeding. “A lot of people said you need to bottle feed for them to sleep through. Do I want my baby to sleep through the night or do I want to do what I think is best for him? It also costs £40 to 50 a month to buy formula.”
Another Sheffield Slings member Janet Collins, mum of Daniel aged 19 weeks, said: “Breastfeeding goes hand in hand with keeping your baby close to you. Some of the mums that have moved to formula have the same principles of being led by the baby. It’s been a good gateway for a lot of mums.
“The Facebook group’s been a revelation. You can go on it in the middle of the night when we‘re awake on the eighth feed of the night and someone else is too.”
Janet said that she avoids the breastfeeding events organised by midwives as she found they focus on problems. She added: “If you haven’t got any issues you don’t feel that’s the place to go to.
“Daniel’s always been a big baby, who took to feeding straightaway. That’s a testament to the support I had ante-natally at the Jessops.
“They showed a video of a baby latching on, the position of the mouth and nipple. I also had support after he was born.
“I was in hospital a couple of days after the birth so I had opportunities for the midwife to watch us. All of that just worked.”
Janet said that there were 15 people in the delivery room when Daniel was born, so she never felt embarassed about breastfeeding in public. She said: “I‘ve already had that loss of dignity. I just told myself in the delivery room I’ll never see any of those people again!”
Janet said she used to cover up elaborately at first but can now feed Daniel without any problems. She first fed him in public at 12 weeks when the family were having lunch in a pub and she realised she didn’t have time to get home.
Neither mum is a fan of special rooms provided in venues, which are often in toilets.
Kiri said: “Barnsley is a little bit slow. When I was at the doctor’s once the GP said ‘Does he need feeding? You have the bottle’. I said, ‘No, he’s breastfed’. He said, ‘We have rooms down there, get a key from reception’. This is what my own GP is telling me!
“I don’t really go out in Barnsley, I’ve got a lot of friends in Sheffield. Barnsley needs to become like Sheffield people are doing.
“We need a critical mass with more people who are aware of natural parenting.”