An open letter to Lincolnshire County Council and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust:
Your recent decision to cease NHS and Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) support for the weekly breastfeeding support group at Belton Lane Children’s Centre in Grantham, has come as a huge blow to the local community and, we believe, has potential ramifications for the next generation of children in our corner of Lincolnshire.
The ULHT decision to no longer provide midwife support to the group has resulted in LCC withdrawing use of the children’s centre. We have also been asked to remove our social media presence, to further disassociate ourselves from both of your organisations.
Given the NHS policy to promote breastfeeding, these decisions appear nonsensical.
The group provides a structured yet informal environment for breastfeeding mothers to meet, to feed, and to discuss concerns in a nurturing and supportive environment. The group, which meets for two hours every Friday, regularly attracts a core of around 20 breastfeeders, as well as countless mothers who are supported through signposting and attendance to suit their specific needs.
Without doubt, there is a cohort of mothers who would not have breastfed at all, or still be breastfeeding today, were it not for this group and the simply fantastic midwives who have supported it to date. A significant proportion of members of the group are still breastfeeding past 12 months, something to be celebrated, supported and promoted – not curtailed.
As you will be aware, across the UK the number of mothers breastfeeding exclusively at three months was only 17 per cent in 2016 (up from 13 per cent in 2005) and at four months, it was 12 per cent (up from seven per cent in 2005).
However, exclusive breastfeeding at six months remains at around 1 per cent (unicef.org.uk). Why would we not continue to support this upward trend? Why would your organisations not be in favour of actively promoting the physical and mental health and social benefits breastfeeding brings?
Whilst peer support is invaluable, and a number of our mothers have trained as NHS-sponsored Peer Supporters, the presence of an NHS midwife for just two hours a week has exponential benefits for mother and baby. Notable is their invaluable experience in recognising and tackling potential post-natal depression.
The presence of a midwife, whilst medically essential to the continued credibility of the Belton Lane group, would also enable us to continue to use the children’s centre facilities. We therefore ask you to provide a justification for your decisions and for you to reconsider your position.
Breastfeeding mummies of Belton Lane Children’s Centre, By email