Mums in Jersey who breastfeed are being invited to take part in their own version of The Big Latch – an event which is an integral part of World Breastfeeding Week (1 -7 August 2021) – to ensure the event is marked even though large groups cannot meet due to Covid restrictions.
Last year, the event could not take place due to Covid restrictions on gatherings, and this year those restriction remains in place, but organisers are inviting parents who want to show their support for the week to share a “selfie” on social media on Saturday, 7 August, to mark the end of World Breastfeeding Week, and tagging the Family Nursing & Home Care social media channels.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is an annual global campaign to raise awareness and galvanise action on themes related to breastfeeding. It is promoted by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and in Jersey, by the Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) operational group.
The group consists of health visitors, midwives, a post-partum doula and mums who are actively involved.
Sarah Keating, Family Nursing & Home Care’s Breastfeeding Lead and BFI Lead, said: “For the past few years, the Baby Friendly Initiative operational group in Jersey has organised a community event to celebrate, raise the profile of, and normalise breastfeeding within Jersey.
“The event, known as The Big Latch, was attended by many mums and dads when we last held it in 2019 to show their support of breastfeeding, and is an opportunity for parents to meet up and relax in a friendly setting with their babies.”
Last year, due to current restrictions around large group events, The Big Latch could not go ahead, but mums got involved online, with a successful social media campaign, with powerful photos taken by local photographer Sophie Darwin.
The campaign featured breast-feeding mums, and mums were also invited to show their support for breastfeeding by uploading a “selfie” of them breastfeeding their baby or child, on social media, using the hashtag #VirtualBigLatchJersey2021.
Every year, health visitors at Family Nursing & Home Care and midwives from Health and Community Services advise and support new mums who choose to breastfeed.
Sarah said: “Our health visitors are proud to work with all mums after the birth of their baby. One of the most common issues we’re asked about and offer support with, is breastfeeding. If mums choose to breastfeed their baby, it’s really important that they feel supported to do it and that they feel they have access to the best information.
“Many new parents will know the benefits of breastfeeding; they will have had conversations with their Health Visitors and Midwives about feeding choices, they will know what support is available to them.
“But breastfeeding success is not as simple as the parents knowing those things, which is why our community event is so important; parents also need to feel accepted in their feeding choices by society, we need policy makers to ensure maximising breastfeeding potential is considered and prioritised, we need community support.
“We know that having a baby is full of new experiences and can be both happy and overwhelming. It is not surprising that getting used to a new routine, many mums struggle with breastfeeding. We support all mums in their feeding choices, and if we can help with breastfeeding support, we are only too pleased to do that.”
“While this is World Breastfeeding Week, it’s really important to recognise that 8 out of 10 women in the UK stop breastfeeding before they want to. Breastfeeding is not an individual responsibility, but is a collective government, policy maker, community, and family responsibility. Education is key, not just for professionals supporting parents, but also for our society, so they too can support our breastfeeding parents.
Sarah explained: “Success in breastfeeding is not about who tried the hardest, it’s about having those many layers of support in place which together support a mum to breastfeed. This can mean ensuring partners are involved, involving grandparents, ensuring public facilities are welcoming for breastfeeding mothers and that employers value the ongoing breastfeeding or provision of breast milk to their staffs’ children when they return to work, by providing facilities to allow breast-feeding or milk pumping to take place.”
“So, when we celebrate breastfeeding, we also celebrate the many women whose breastfeeding experience was not as they expected; particularly in the pandemic where face to face support has been reduced or disrupted, family support may have been limited, and undoubtedly some parents’ breastfeeding journey has ended earlier than intended. Those journeys deserve applause and celebration too.”
“As we continue through the pandemic, face to face support has once again become the norm, with specialist clinics and Breastfeeding Buddies back up and running; families can access Feeding support though both their midwives and Health Visitors directly.”
Dana Scott, Interim Head of Midwifery and Associate Chief Nurse for the Division of Women and Children at Health and Community Services, said: “We know women want the very best start for their babies. Maternity have secured funding to appoint an Infant Feeding Midwife Specialist, on secondment until 2022. Having a Specialist Midwife in post will support women’s choice of feeding and will really support the promotion of physical and mental wellbeing for mums and babies.
“The post links to the Reducing Preventable Disease (RPD) portfolio, which is to reduce the burden of preventable disease and avoidable, early death in the Jersey population, and in doing so to achieve the Government of Jersey’s Common Strategic Policy (CSP) priority to ‘Improve Islanders wellbeing and mental and physical health’.
Deputy Louise Doublet, Chair of the Jersey UNICEF BFI Steering Group said: “Raising breastfeeding rates across the population is one of the most important things we can do for the short- and long-term health of babies and mothers.
“I’m passionate about working towards every single family on our Island having the support they need to breastfeed for as long as they want to. I found that when my own baby was very young, the community of other breastfeeding mums was absolutely invaluable to me.
“I hope that other women will be inspired by the camaraderie that is out there and connect with each other by posting a selfie, tagging the Family Nursing & Home Care media channels, and writing about their own experiences on social media.”