Norwich GPs become breastfeeding champions to support city mothers and babies

Breastfeeding in Norfolk. Photo: Norwich CCG

Breastfeeding in Norfolk. Photo: Norwich CCG - Credit: Norwich CCG

More than half of Norwich GP practices have become accredited in the new Norwich Breastfeeding Friendly Surgery scheme.

Meg Douglass-Ellis and baby Ophelia. Photo: Norwich CCG

Meg Douglass-Ellis and baby Ophelia. Photo: Norwich CCG - Credit: Norwich CCG

It means much more than surgeries being somewhere mothers are welcomed to feed their babies naturally.

As each practice has GPs who have signed up to be breastfeeding champions, with the aim to encourage mums to breastfeed their newborns for at least six months – longer if they wish.

They want to offer as much guidance and support as possible so mothers feel empowered to continue breastfeeding, through the good days and through any difficulties.

Dr Clare Aitchison, from Magdalen Medical Practice, 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.'

Nine in every 10 UK women who stop breastfeeding in the first few weeks give up before they want to. And 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.

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Surgeries will also support feeding within the premises with a dedicated private area, 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.

NHS Norwich CCG chair and Queen's nurse, Tracy Williams, said: 'We hope that delivering more breastfeeding support will result in increased breastfeeding rates in Norwich and consequently better health in babies and mums.'

National data suggests by six weeks the number of babies exclusively breastfed is 23pc. UNICEF said if breastfeeding rates at four months increased to 45pc there would be fewer hospital admissions and GP consultations for poorly babies.

Breastfeeding in Norwich

Norwich mother 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.'

Data suggests around 78pc of new mothers in the city start off breastfeeding but by the four to six week check-up this drops to about 51pc of babies receiving some breast milk, considerably lower than the national average.

Accredited surgeries

Those accredited in the Norwich Breastfeeding Friendly Surgery scheme so far are:

• Magdalen Medical Practice

• Thorpewood Medical Practice

• UEA Medical Centre

• Trinity and 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.