World Breastfeeding Week Event at Blackpool Hospital

Families gathered at Blackpool Victoria Hospital to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and take part in an annual international event called the ‘Global Big Latch On’.

The hospital’s event was intended to bring together some of the supporters of breastfeeding in the town and to raise awareness of breastfeeding, encourage the formation of support networks and normalise breastfeeding as a part of daily life.

The Blackpool mums who breastfed their babies at the event on Friday, August 4, were part of a total of 17,790 across the globe this year.

The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week (from August 1 to 7) was ‘sustaining breastfeeding together’ – which is a key message here on the Fylde coast as well as globally.

The event was organised by Infant Feeding Co-ordinator, Dawn Burrows and Baby Friendly Co-ordinator, Shel Banks, who are based at the hospital and work for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Dawn and Shel welcomed back some families who had been in the hospital’s Neonatal Unit and others who had had their babies at the Fylde Coast Birth Centre as well as in the hospital’ Delivery Suite. Mums chatted and connections were made.

Shelley Watson, mum to twins Felicity and Scarlett, attended the event with her sister, Heather Parkinson.

Shelley said: “It’s brilliant that they are having this event at the hospital because Blackpool’s breastfeeding rates aren’t great.

“Felicity and Scarlett were premature so I didn’t get to hold them for a couple of weeks and it was so hard.

“When I was first able to breastfeed them I cried and cried. It was that connection I had been missing. I felt like a mum at last.

“They were in Alder Hey Children’s Hospital when they were first born and then they went to Blackpool for a couple of weeks before returning home. They’re 15-and-a-half months old now.”

Shelley said she is now training to be a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM).

She added: “Breast milk is great because it’s free and it’s absolutely the best thing for your baby – both mentally and physically.”

Danielle Camm, a health visitor from Blackpool who works for the Trust, said: “This event is really good. It’s so important that we can support each other.

“It’s a woman’s right and a child’s right by law to be able to breastfeed.

“If you come from a family where there wasn’t breastfeeding, you need that support. Even as a heath professional, I have found it hard to do.

“The first few days you think, ‘why and I doing this?’ If you have support around you it makes it a bit easier and you can vent off to someone. Breastfeeding is great because it helps the baby’s brain to develop. If your baby is ill, you take on the germs and your body creates antibodies which help your child to fight infection.

“I’m not against formula. If it’s right for you and your family, that’s fine. However, if you want to breastfeed, you need support.”

Head of Maternity and Gynaecology Services Shelley Piper said “It was fabulous to see such a great turn out supporting such a worthwhile event. The Families Division is passionate about encouraging breastfeeding as it is so important for the health and wellbeing of our families on the Fylde Coast.

Zoe Walsh, a Doula (a non-medical person who assists a person before, during, or after childbirth) and trainee ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor from Blackpool, said: “It’s good that the event has taken place here, especially in an area like Blackpool where breastfeeding rates are quite low.

“It’s a positive thing to have mums who are breastfeeding together and to find some sense of community and support.

“Being a mum can be quite isolating, so having opportunities like this to meet other like-minded mums and to share tips is really positive.”

Zoe said breastfeeding was the biological norm for babies as that was what their bodies were primed for.

She explained: “For those of us working in the breastfeeding world, we know that not breastfeeding is a risk.

“Breastfeeding protects the baby and mum against illness. It builds bonds and helps the baby to form positive relationships.

“Some people see formula as the norm but for a woman to be physically unable to breastfeed is very, very rare.”

The families were also joined after the Big Latch On had taken place, by Head of Service for the Families Division, Pauline Tschobotko, who chatted with participants and thanked everyone for attending.

Recognition and Celebration Event, 21st July

Blackpool Victoria Hospital’s Women and Children’s Division hosted an event this week to say Thank You to some of the many Star Buddies who have formed part of the Breastfeeding Peer Support Scheme in Blackpool over the past decade.

All breastfeeding peer supporters who have worked in Blackpool  as Star Buddies were invited to the event on Friday morning at the hospital, however owing to work and family commitments not everyone was able to make it.

Pauline Tschobotko who is Head of Service in the Women and Children’s Division, and Nicola Parry who is Head of Midwifery, really wanted to celebrate all that had been achieved during the hospital’s decade of partnership with the  voluntary sector breastfeeding support initiative, and to recognise and thank the individuals who provided that support.

Pauline joined Blackpool Hospitals as Head of Midwifery just over 10 years ago and relayed that when she began in post and asked about what was available locally to support breastfeeding, she was told that ‘Blackpool women don’t breastfeed’; she then began to work for the hospital with local partners on providing  more robust training for the maternity and neonatal staff, and in providing better information and support for families around breastfeeding and relationship building, through first of all the breastfeeding peer support service, and then the Baby Friendly Initiative Accreditation of the hospital.

After Nicola Parry and Pauline Tschobotko had addressed the attendees, Blackpool Hospitals Infant Feeding Co-ordinator Dawn Burrows provided each of them with a certificate of appreciation – so those of you who were not able to make it, please get in touch with your address and we will send it out to you by post!

After presentations had been made of the certificates, our now ex-Community Infant Feeding Lead and previous Community Peer Support Lead Liz Nunez took the opportunity to thank Pauline and Nicola for their kind words, and importantly to thank the hospital for its valuable recognition, and for the opportunity to come together and celebrate the achievements of the team.

It was a lovely opportunity for some of the ex-colleagues to catch up, and we heard about some of the jobs that those who were made redundant in June have been able to secure since – the project really did build the social capital we had always hoped it would, and provided some of these amazing women with the stepping stone into a new and exciting career going forward.

Although Blackpool’s existing breastfeeding peer support programme is now gone, and with it the staff who had in many cases been with it since the beginning and who have now moved on to new career adventures, the fight to secure breastfeeding peer support for Blackpool families going forward has not ended. We will continue to work towards raising awareness of the need for the service, and on rebuilding the local expertise so that soon we will be able to provide a service to support families to provide the very best start possible for the most vulnerable in our population – our babies.

The end of an era

Blackpool Hospital Star Buddies 30/06

Friday 30th June marked the end of the 10 year breastfeeding peer support project in Blackpool. While this was undeniably a very sad day for those losing their jobs, and for all those whose colleagues are leaving their posts, there was still a sense of celebration in the air for all that has been achieved for the families of Blackpool in that decade.

There was a a little gathering in the hospital, and another in the community, where kind words were spoken and gifts exchanged:

1000’s of families reached, many stories shared on this website. Support given without judgement, information given with kindness, choices facilitated with empathy.  The Star Buddies came in with passion, and can leave their jobs with their heads held high.

Pictured above are the four hospital Star Buddies leaving their Blackpool jobs, plus Dawn Burrows (Hospital Infant Feeding Co-ordinator), Shel Banks (Hospital Baby Friendly Co-ordinator),  Alison Leyland (Specialist Midwife for Diabetes) and Janet Danson-Smith (Patient Experience Lead for the hospital’s Families Division).

There will be a celebration and recognition event later in July for all Blackpool Star Buddies, anyone who wore the classic lime green t-shirts over the past 10 years!

In other news, while the project in its previous form has ended, we here at Blackpool Breastfeeding Support still very much continue the fight to have Breastfeeding Peer Support in some form in our Town.

If you would like to help behind the scenes with this fight, then please get in touch.

Update w/c 19th June

While it may seem that the campaign has gone quiet of late, this does not mean we have given up on the fight to retain a Star Buddies Breastfeeding Peer Support service for Blackpool, and there is plenty still going on behind the scenes!

Here are some updates on what has happened in June:

– Zoe Walsh interview for Radio Lancashire

– Protest in Bickerstaffe Square outside council offices – on a grim northern seaside town day for weather, valiant protestors turned out and made their voices heard – resulted in Blackpool Gazette and Granada Reports coverage.

– 2 hour meeting with Director of Public Health and one of the staff involved in commissioning the Star Buddies and the Infant Feeding role and Baby Friendly Accreditation work, via the Breastfeeding Network – Shel Banks and Zoe Walsh for the campaign, plus Blackpool Councillor Paul Galley. Discussions around new Health Visiting Service and how the council propose breastfeeding support will be provided going forward, and around statutory commissioning documents and best practice for breastfeeding peer support.

– Contacts have been made with new MPs and other Blackpool councillors

– Documents being drafted for further council meeting, date TBA

– Blackpool’s Maternity Services Liaison Committee requested input from the campaign at their meeting so this is being provided

– Plans for Star Buddies recognition event

And of course we will continue to keep you updated here with events needing public input, which there will be plenty in the coming weeks and months. Your voice as a local resident, is so important.

Statements from those standing for election on June 8th

We asked for feedback about the loss of the Blackpool breastfeeding peer support service, from the candidates in the GE 2017 for the two Blackpool constituencies – here are their responses: (in order of receipt)

Chris Webb standing for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Labour)

“Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve raised this issue with the Council and Councillors and highlighted my concerns. We need to ensure services like this continue to do the excellent work with new mothers. If elected tomorrow I will do all I can to help.”

Paul Maynard standing for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Conservative)

“I am a supporter of the scheme. My view has always been as that however scarce money for public health might be, it should be focused on the area’s biggest challenges. Maternal health remains a real challenge in this town and I’ve seen many examples of excellent practice, not only via the Star Buddies peer scheme but also via the Family Nurse Partnership and others down the years. It seems foolish to cut funding in areas of public health where the outcomes are often poorest. Both perinatal and antenatal health in Blackpool are major public health concerns so I share your disappointment at the decision made by the local Labour Council. The local NHS take the view that ‘breast is best’ and have been keen to recruit and train more midwives and health visitor in this area, they are in full support of the scheme. The Star Buddies not only had paid staff but also many volunteer mums who are keen to continue helping locally and have received accredited training, so whether the service continues under the Star Buddies brand or via some other means I am keen to ensure the help continues. I am hoping to set up some meetings with the Council post election on this matter and will do my best to try and reduce the gaps in service.”

Gordon Marsden standing for Blackpool South (Labour)

“Thank you for the email you sent me on the withdrawal of the Star Buddy Support Service in Blackpool. When this was first brought to my attention – in mid-May – I wanted to try and get a response and explanation from the Director of Public Health as to the reasoning for this decision.

My office contacted his office and received a general statement to the effect that although the service was well-liked and highly regarded, that because it had not been able for whatever reason to expand the number of mothers choosing breast feeding, they needed to look at other avenues via the new Better Start partnership and additional investment in the health visiting service.

I wanted to see more details on this and therefore pressed the department further for more detail and strategy.  I have recently seen this and while it does essentially repeat the original argument, there are further questions I would like to pose to the new Children’s Services Director as well as the Director of Public Health.

I intend therefore after June 8th to seek a meeting with them if I am re-elected as a Blackpool MP to take those questions further.  I certainly believe that those women who have contributed their time and effort to the Star Buddies volunteer scheme should be fully recognised for their contribution and be further consulted as to what role there might be for them in the future.  Their enthusiasm and experience should not in my view be discarded, and though I hope that their expertise and comments were taken into account in the original ‘stakeholder feedback’ which I am told was requested, I will press the Director of Public Health further on this.

It is I am afraid a fact that Government has withdrawn £450 million of grant funding from Blackpool’s care services since 2010 which has meant they have forced many difficult decisions to be made locally.  Despite this however I am told that the Better Start funding will enable enhanced investment in Health Visitors. I and my party have incidentally pledged that we would review in Government the funding and not least for outreach services in children’s centres which this Government’s cuts have affected.”

Protest outside council offices, 6th June

The weather forecasts were dismal – 100% chance of rain and up to 50mph winds – and being residents of Blackpool and the surrounding areas we are all very well aware of how the weather can be!

BUT! undeterred, a small but passionate band of families staged a protest in Bickerstaffe Square Blackpool over lunchtime on Tuesday 6th June,  for between 30 minutes and 2 hours, with brief spells in the nearby coffee shop to warm up and refuel!

Here are some photos taken relatively early on in the event, by local photographer Richard Hardwick – some of us were in the cafe and some of us had not yet arrived! All of us had been almost blown to smithereens !

Granada Reports came to report on us, with a segment going out on the evening news, as did The Blackpool Gazette – we’ll link here where we have that coverage.


Remember if you have not yet signed the petition you can do so here

Over 1000 signatures to the petition!

Last night the petition went over 1,000 signatories, which gives us a chance to look back at the some of the amazing comments people have left about their shock and disbelief about this essential Blackpool service closing:

“You cannot close a vital support group like this. My daughter is due to give birth next month and as she’s only 18 she was hoping to have their help and support as she has chosen to breastfeed. Keep the support in place for all future mums and their children.”

“I didn’t breastfeed and didn’t intend to but for people who did this is such an awful thing to lose! I know from my friends experiences they would have been lost without the support of star buddies!”

“I really don’t understand where the support will come from if this service disappears? Midwives and Health Visitors are stretched enough as it is and would need extra training to fulfill this requirement. My twins and I had a 2 week stay in Blackpool Paediatrics after 14 weeks in NICU at Preston. Star Buddies were great at coming to see me and my girls to check our breastfeeding, as I was panicking after leaving NICU and having 24/7 support there.”

“I had my son last week and wanted to breastfeed. I struggled a lot in the hospital but had a visit from a star buddy who gave lots of great advice. After I was finally discharged, I really struggled and was in tears! A star buddy came to my house within an hour and made me feel so much better and more confident. This service needs to carry on as I would have given up by now if it wasn’t for them”

I am so sad to hear about this. This is such a vital service. I have managed to breastfeed 2 of my babies with the help and support from the star buddies. They gave me so much advice, support and a listening ear. They were there when I hurt the most and I had no idea what I was doing. Thanks to them, I had the confidence to go out in public, knowing I was doing the best for my baby.
Please don’t end this service”

“Vital service especially for mums like me who delivered prematurely. Breast feeding is a whole different ball game when you have to express and try and keep your supply there for weeks on end till baby is ready to feed. Star buddies were ace for me”

“Star buddies came to teach me how to collect and store colostrum in advance of babies being born. Without their support and advice I wouldn’t of been able to store my milk in the fridges in the nicu in advance of my twins prem birth.”

“This is such an amazing service…and supported me with breastfeeding my 2 children. Without their support I would have felt alone and given up! Not only did they support breast feeding, the ladies supported me through the early days of being a mum! I have recommended this service to so many new mum’s! I hope the council change their decision. Such an amazing and unique support service!”

There are many many more comments on the Facebook thread too – see this link 

Expert thoughts on the Star Buddies Service

Expert Voices

“I have seen the difference peer supporters make to new mums. This is a vital service that should not be cut in any locality, but in Blackpool where breastfeeding rates are so poor it is absolutely vital.”  – Professor Helen Ball, University of Durham Anthropology Dept

“As a former midwife I know how this service is desperately needed in Blackpool.” ET – Blackpool

“Supporting women to breastfeed saves money in both the short and long term – fewer hospital admissions and GP visits for breastfed babies and a 4% reduction in breast cancer rates in women who breastfeed for one year.” – Mindy Noble – Chair of Hampshire Maternity Services Liaison Committee

“Breastfeeding support contributes to maternal mental and physical health and helps provide a healthy start for babies. I believe Blackpool’s families should not be denied this quality service, and cuts will put pressure on the Health Visiting and Primary Care service.” – Dr Louise Santhaman, GP

“So “Blackpool Council insists support will continue but funding will be directed towards its health visitor service” but how does this help the brand new ladies and babies on the ward? Those with vulnerable sick babies in the neonatal unit? How does it help in the first 10 days of a baby’s life before the HV is involved? Are we just hoping it will go well til then? I also doubt that the money spent on this amazing and valuable peer support service run by the voluntary sector will go nearly so far when paying NHS staff. And who is to provide the additional training for these health visiting staff who will no longer have the experienced Star Buddies to call upon? Such a sad and bad decision, in my opinion. Totally shocking.” – SB, ex- Blackpool Star Buddy and local IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant)

‘After my discussion with the Blackpool paediatricians last year I was more convinced than ever of the need for exactly such a service as this provides. These low-cost initiatives by women who understand breastfeeding save taxpayers and ratepayers money as well as improving the health of families and babies in this generation and those to come. Any town lucky enough to have such a service should cherish it. So many women fail to breastfeed because they do not get the support they need when they need it.’ – Author and Health Historian  Maureen Minchin, (titles: Milk Matters 2015, Breastfeeding Matters 1985, Food for Thought 1982)

“Star Buddies has been a beacon example of how to support new mothers on the post natal wards and in their homes. Breastfeeding matters to mothers, to babies and to the greater health economy – we know this from research. To add more pressure to an already stretched NHS service means that greater gaps will appear so that mothers and babies will slip through. This decision makes no sense economically, socially or for the long term health of the area. Please reconsider this decision urgently. Mothers deserve evidence based support focused on their needs.”
Dr Wendy Jones, Pharmacist

Gazette coverage, Thursday 1st June

Mums are ready to protest Blackpool Council’s decision

A group of mums is ready to mount a protest outside Blackpool Council’s headquarters after the authority axed funding for breastfeeding support services.

The Save Blackpool Breastfeeding Support group was set up following a decision by Blackpool Council to cut funding for the Star Buddies volunteer scheme. They are due to stage a demonstration outside Blackpool Council’s Bickerstaffe House headquarters at 11.30am next Tuesday.

Mums concerned about the loss of the service got together last week at a cafe in Layton to discuss their concerns. And they were clear about the support the Star Buddies had given them, Leanne Lesson said: “I had a bad experience trying to breastfeed my first child as at the time there wasn’t the help that there is now and I ended up giving up. “Without this help many mums like myself would not be able to successfully breastfeed their babies.”

Stacey Mallam said: “To end this service is such an injustice to all mummies and mummies to be. Please Blackpool Council – reverse your decision.”

Star Buddies are trained peer supporters and mums who have breastfed their own babies. In the last 10 years, they have helped thousands of mums and babies in Blackpool. They see mums before they have their babies, in the first two days after they’re born at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, and then they call them and visit them at home for the next six weeks to help them with any problems. The service has been highly praised by Unicef UK Baby Friendly.
Blackpool Council says more funding will go into the resort’s general health visitor service.

Read the report on the Gazette website here

We also welcome Dads, Aunties, Uncles, Grandmas and Grandads to the protest, as well as other concerned Fylde Coast residents.

For more information see our Facebook event  and see our Facebook page and to sign the petition and leave your comments, see the petition page

Blackpool Dad’s impassioned plea

Video here from local new Dad Andy, click to go to the video on his FB page

Andy’s new baby was born just one week ago, and his wife has found the support of the Star Buddies invaluable. They are asking you to sign the petition and make your voice heard if you, like them, feel that this service must be saved.