More than half of the GP Practices in Norwich have become accredited in the new Norwich Breastfeeding Friendly Surgery scheme.
It means much more than GP surgeries being somewhere that mums are welcomed to feed their babies naturally. Each practice has GPs who have signed up to be breastfeeding champions. Their aim is to encourage mums to breastfeed their newborns for at least six months – longer if they wish to. They want to offer as much guidance and support as possible so that mums feel empowered to continue breastfeeding, through the good days and through any difficulties.
One of the Norwich GPs who is championing breastfeeding is Dr Clare Aitchison from Magdalen Medical Practice (pictured).
She said: “GPs receive very little training in breastfeeding support yet we are often where new mums turn to for help and advice.
“As a GP but also a mum of three children and a trained breastfeeding peer supporter I know how important breastfeeding is to those who want to do it.
"There are also huge health benefits to both baby and mum, and consequently huge savings that can be made to the NHS through an intervention that is essentially free to do.”
It’s a sad fact that 9 in every ten UK women who stop breastfeeding in the first few weeks give up before they want to. The main reason they state is lack of support.
So each practice taking part in the Norwich Breastfeeding Friendly Surgery scheme will have one or two doctors and nurses who receive specialist training in breastfeeding support and will then share this knowledge with the rest of the practice. Surgeries will also support feeding within the premises with a dedicated area for mums who want to feed in private, but also supporting those who are keen to feed in public.
Dr Aitchison has also been spreading the word among her NHS colleagues by running a GP-education session in Norwich.
The Breastfeeding Network promotes mums feeding their babies themselves and runs support groups across the country. They said: "The Breastfeeding Network (BfN) is delighted to hear that GP practices across Norwich are getting on board with a breastfeeding friendly scheme.
“For many families their GP will be the first place they go to access breastfeeding support, so it's vital that GPs have a good understanding of some of the issues around breastfeeding, and that their surgeries are places where mothers feel welcome to breastfeed their babies.
“We would encourage other GP practices across the country to consider getting involved with a Breastfeeding Friendly scheme.”
Breastfeeding in Norwich
Norwich mum Meg Douglass-Ellis chose to breastfeed because of the incredible bonding opportunity it presented for her and her baby, Ophelia. She said: “As well as the many health benefits that breast feeding offers it provided us both with a way of anchoring ourselves to one another, feeling secure and connected in the turbulent times following birth and beyond.
“A great support network makes the journey a lot easier and I was lucky enough to find that support in midwives with a wealth of knowledge and family who really allowed me to make the most of those special first weeks while feeding was establishing. Although the first few weeks were challenging, once we had our rhythm I never looked back.”
However data we have suggests that about 78% of new mums in Norwich start off breastfeeding. Yet by the 4-6 week check-up this drops to about 51% of babies receiving some breast milk considerably lower than the national average. National data suggests that by 6 weeks the true figures of babies that are exclusively breastfed in UK is only 23%. UNICEF evidence reports that if UK breastfeeding rates at 4 months increased to 45% there would be fewer hospital admissions and GP consultations for poorly babies.
This is despite the life-long benefits of breastfeeding to both baby and mum which are well proven:
Breastmilk gives a baby lifelong protection: the longer you breastfeed the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits. Breastfeeding for longer reduces your baby’s chance of developing anything from tummy infections to childhood leukemia or obesity and diabetes in later life.
For mums, breastfeeding helps you lose weight sooner and lowers your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and some cardiovascular diseases.
The Norwich Breastfeeding Friendly Surgery scheme has been organised and promoted by NHS Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group as part of the Healthy Norwich programme. Tackling obesity which can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular illnesses is a major priority for Healthy Norwich.
The Chair of NHS Norwich CCG, Queen’s Nurse Tracy Williams, said: “We hope that that delivering more breastfeeding support will result in increased breastfeeding rates in Norwich and consequently better health in babies and mums.”
Those accredited in the Norwich Breastfeeding Friendly Surgery scheme so far are:
• Magdalen Medical Practice
• Thorpewood Medical Practice
• UEA Medical Centre
• Trinity & Bowthorpe Medical Practice
• Prospect Medical Practice
• Bacon Road Medical Practice
• East Norwich Medical Practice (Sprowston and Thorpe Surgeries)
• Newmarket Road Surgery
• St Stephens Gate Medical Practice
• Gurney Surgery
• Mile End Road Surgery
• Norwich Practices Ltd (Rouen House)
• Lawson Road Surgery
• Wensum Valley Medical Practice
• Roundwell Medical Practice
• Oak Street Medical Practice
The National Breastfeeding Helpline is open 365 days a year, 9.30am-9.30pm on 0300 100 0212 - offering non-judgmental confidential and evidence based mother centred, friendly breastfeeding support and information – www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
The Breastfeeding Network also offers:
A drugs and breast milk information service run by a trained pharmacist where anyone - parents or healthcare professionals can get in touch to ask about the safety of using prescription drugs while breastfeeding. https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/detailed-information/drugs-in-breastmilk/ A Breastfeeding Friendly scheme that any organisation can sign up to for free: https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/bfn-breastfeeding-friendly-scheme/