“We do things differently in Salford”

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18 June 2016

This week is National Breastfeeding Celebration Week, and we’re celebrating how everyone can support mothers to breastfeed, whenever and wherever they are. To showcase some of the great work going on around the country, we’re sharing guest blogs from people writing about their experiences of being supported to breastfeed and helping others to do the same. Today’s blog is written by Kimberly, discussing her research into breastfeeding rates in Salford and her work to help improve them. Share your breastfeeding support stories using#celebratebreastfeeding on social media.

I’m very lucky to call Salford my adopted home. Since moving here three years ago fresh out of Staffordshire University as a Journalism graduate, I have become part of the community and fallen in love with the city. It was when I first moved here that I overheard someone describing the work going on in Salford, and talking about how wonderfully passionate the people are about their city. The reply was, “We do things differently in Salford,” and that has stuck with me throughout the work I have been doing.

The last 18 months have been especially exciting for me. My business,Visit from the Stork CIC, received our first grant fund from Salford Clinical Commissioning Group as part of their ‘Little Pot of Health’ initiative in October 2014; to carry out local research into breastfeeding rates across the city. This was something completely different for us, as primarily we are an advice organisation and online publication for young parents and parents-to-be under 25. I knew that Breastfeeding was a contentious issue, but also one that I felt could be more talked about and made easier for my audience of young parents to understand and engage with.

My research involved finding out why the breastfeeding statistics in Salford (at the time) dropped from 62% to just 23% in the first 6 weeks. I thought maybe something was happening to these mothers that they weren’t prepared for in pregnancy. I knew that the large Infant Feeding Survey gave professionals an insight into what was going on but it wasn’t done at a local level that enabled anyone to make changes that were really needed. I decided that I needed to hear it from the mums myself; what they thought they had needed to know during pregnancy to really prepare them for it, and what problems they had faced, so we could give the right advice to the next generation of mums. To do this, I created a friendly, open space for mums to talk to me, and crucially to each other. Thus BOOBS (Be Open on Breastfeeding in Salford) was born.

That was just over 14 months ago, and the journey we have had since then has been amazing. The women I spoke to about their breastfeeding journeys were all so passionate – even when it had not gone well for them. Some of them were on their second journey and had learnt from their first child what had gone wrong, learned to understand their bodies and respect what nature was telling them. Others were just starting out and with help and advice, (and sometimes gritted teeth), were doing their best to carry on.

After completing my research, I asked for mums interested in a campaign around promoting breastfeeding and empowering others to breastfeed to come forward; we had over 25 women who wanted to be involved. I was lucky enough to find several wonderful photographers who gave up their time to photograph these women for free. We spent the next four months arranging photoshoots in places such as Salford Lads Club, outside The Lowry and even on the Metrolink. As word spread, more and more women started to be involved.

We had women from all backgrounds and from every part of Salford join in; from Stacey aged 21, a Masters student with her first baby, to Rachel, in her late 40’s and on her fifth child, having had her first at just 18. By October last year our Facebook page had over 150 likes and our group had spread to over 50 women all involved in the campaign. In November, we were finally able to reveal what it was we had been working on for most of the year: Salford’s first ever Breastfeeding Calendar. Real Salford women breastfeeding proudly in ‘iconic’ places in Salford.

We sold the calendar online and in local shops and a percentage of the funds raised went to Bliss – a charity that helps premature babies in hospitals including in Manchester. The rest of the money went back in the ‘pot’ to fund our current campaign BOOBS Approved.

What excites me most about BOOBS is that this is just the tip of the iceberg; equivalent to that first precious ‘golden milk’ at the start of a breastfeeding journey. Whilst I have created the ‘space’ and the group that was needed to kickstart this excitement and positivity around breastfeeding in the city, it has been the mums involved who have really taken it forward. It is amazing to think that we’ve had sales of the calendar in London, York, and even in Scotland!

Thinking about our journey, I come back to the quote I heard within weeks of living here; Salford does it differently, and we do it good. The impact we’ve created by doing something new has been amazing – and best of all it is completely community-led. I come to this year’s#celebratebreastfeeding week with nothing but positivity for #breastfeedinginsalford which fills me with great pride.

By Kimberly Bond, Managing Director, Visit from the Stork CIC