Breastfeeding Support for Black Families in Cumbria

Dual-heritage article author Ella smiles at the camera she wears a yellow top and red jacket. Author: Ella Jarman-Pinto

Black Breastfeeding Week 25th – 31st August 2022

There are countless statistics that I’m sure plenty of other posts will shout from the rooftops during Black Breastfeeding Week.

Black families, you don’t need to read that. (Caregivers and medical professionals, you do!)

Instead, I am writing this article – a mixed-heritage woman and trained peer supporter, who has only met one other Black breastfeeding mother in person during my 6.5 years (and ongoing!) breastfeeding journey in Cumbria. What we have isn’t perfect but even navigating this imperfect solution can be tricky, so I have written this article to show you how to get support. 

NB: Do not take advice from anyone unless you trust that they a) can follow it up with evidence and b) aren’t swayed by their own experience. Always trust your gut. Ask again if advice hasn’t helped you.

 

Who’s who?

It is really important to understand the system and the titles, and levels of training of the professionals supporting you. So much about breastfeeding in the UK is about advocating for yourself.

Partners, family and friends.

Most probably not trained, these people are your closest supporters.
They may have experience (good or bad) of breastfeeding that they are desperate to share with you. They may feel worried about things going wrong, or want you to take what they consider to be an “easier” option.
The most important thing is to be clear with your people about what you want for you and your baby, and how they can help you.
Holding newborn hands while baby is latching? Yes. Knowing you’ve made your decision to breastfeed and are determined to but suggest formula when you find it hard? Maybe not.
Decide on what you want and have clear and ongoing discussions. Partners, family and friends are crucial support for you throughout your breastfeeding journey.

GPs

“There is no guarantee that a doctor training as a GP will have any formal training in breastfeeding” – Parenting Science 

A GP should direct you to someone with more specialist advice unless they have chosen to specialise in Breastfeeding further.

Peer Supporters

Peer supporters are breastfeeding mothers and people who have had formal training. You will usually find them in Breastfeeding groups, either running them or supporting a medical professional or IBCLC.

Peer Supporters can help with basic knowledge, troubleshooting if you’re finding things difficult, and being a listening ear. They should observe a full feed (with your permission), and respond to any questions.

If they suspect any medical needs or think you need more support, they should refer you to their supervisor rather than diagnose themselves.

Midwifes, Infant Feeding Coordinators, Health Visitors, Paediatricians

The levels of formal breastfeeding training vary widely throughout the medical profession. I have anecdotal experiences from myself and of many many people I have known, of both fantastic and awful support.

A good place to start is Unicef’s ‘Baby Friendly Initiative’ (BFI) awards. These are ‘considered the ‘gold standard’ of training and practice to promote breastfeeding for maternity, health visiting, neonatal and children’s centres services.’

The maternity sites at the Cumberland Infirmary, West Cumberland Hospital and Penrith Birthing Centre all received the Unicef’s Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) stage 2 accreditation in 2018.

It’s worthwhile checking your local maternity centre to see if they are also accredited.

Trust your gut and ask for what you want for your feeding journey. Ask again and again and again. Ask for advice, ask for evidence, ask for support, ask for information on peer support groups and where else you can get help.

 Lactation Consultants (IBCLC)

IBCLC’s are the most qualified Breastfeeding support professional you can find.

In order to just sit the two-hour certified board exam, candidates need to first rack up

– 1000 hours of clinical practice

– 95 hours of lactation education (including 5 hours focussed on communication skills)

– Non health professionals also need evidence of learning in 14 health education subjects. – All of this done in the 5 years before taking the exam

They know their stuff!

Qualified IBCLCs then need to retake the exam every five years in order to retain their qualification.

IBCLCs are not widely available on the NHS. Some run free peer support groups and many work privately 1-2-1. Often IBCLCs have active social media accounts giving out evidence-based information, but check their accreditation.

Where can I get support?

This list is not exhaustive! If you’d like to add anything to the list, please get in touch.

Peer Support Groups in North Cumbria:

  • Carlisle and Allerdale Breastfeeding Support Group Morton Children’s Centre, Tuesdays, 11am to 12pm (Family Action) Tel: 0122822341
  • Wigton Breastfeeding Support Group at Wigton Children’s Centre, Wednesdays, 10:30am to 11:30am. (Family Action) Tel: 01900604822
  • Eden Breastfeeding Support Group Penrith Children’s Centre, first and third Tuesday of the month. Kirkby Steven on 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month (Barnardos) Tel: 01768899901
  • Appleby Children’s Centre, second and fourth Tuesday of the month. 1:30-2:30. (Barnardos ) Tel: 01768899901
  • Egremont Childrens Centre. Allerdale and Copeland Infant Feeding Support Group, Tuesdays 12pm to 1pm. (Family Action) Tel: 0194664600
  • Seaton Library Group. (BAPS) Breastfeeding and Peer Support Groups: Tuesday 1-2pm. Maryport Library Group: Thursdays 10:00-11:00.
  • Happy Mums Foundation – across Cumbria. Not specifically for breastfeeding but do provide peer to peer support. See here for how they work and their timetables

◦ Facebok: BAPS.Allerdale, Instagram: @baps.allerdale Peer Support Groups in South Cumbria:

  • Kendal, Windermere, Ulverston – Ann Bruce IBCLC, South Cumbria Breastfeeding Support 

Online Support

National Breastfeeding Helpline – 7 days a week 9:30am to 9.30pm. Tel: 0300100212 

La Leche League GB – Friendly breastfeeding support from pregnancy onwards 

KellyMom – Evidence-based parenting advice 

Find an IBCLC – registered IBCLCs working throughout the country 

        

Black Breastfeeding Support

A ton of wonderful links in this blog – https://happiestbaby.co.uk/blogs/parents/where-black- moms-can-turn-for-breastfeeding-help

Black Breastfeeding Week – the people behind this brilliant event

 

Unhappy?

So many breastfeeding mothers and people are hurt by bad advice and/or inadequate support.

– You can talk to PALs (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) about your NHS care 

#BBW22 https://blackbreastfeedingweek.org #BlackBreastfeedingWeek22