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Supporting Feeding in Our Settings

August 1, 2022
6 minute read

Breast feeding can be a very sensitive subject, and one that should be broached very carefully. Calling on my own experience, I was desperate to breast feed my teeny tiny little human, it had been a dream of mine since I can remember. I was so excited for that moment when he was born, I had that instant skin to skin contact and we bonded through that and the first few attempts of latching before we got it right. However, I was rather poorly when my little one was born. He was a little bit early and we were in hospital for a few days, him in special care, me on the post-natal ward, separated for a few days until he could come to the ward with me.  

My poor boobs were so confused at what on earth was going on! I was shoving bits of blanket in my bra, and swapping them over with the bits of blanket in the incubator every few hours, trying my hardest to hand express to get the colostrum for my diddy little baby – it just wasn’t happening! There was nothing there! My boobs were asleep and empty! I was also struggling with latching, the nurse in special care was impatient and losing her cool, she forced me to give him a bottle. I got really really upset.  

Finally, a day or two after I got home, my baby was about five days old at this point, and five days into being formula fed, I kept trying. There was a teeny tiny leakage on my top! I had milk! Finally he latched on! He fed! There wasn’t enough milk there for the full feed that he was used to, but finally we did it! I was over the moon, he continued to be bottle fed because I wasn’t producing enough breast milk to satisfy him, but at least he was getting some of the good stuff! To this day, I believe being in a calm, relaxed and supportive environment really helped with my milk production and my baby latching on. 

The way a baby is fed is a choice that is very personal to the family. And sometimes there is no choice, they just have to do what they can to keep the baby safe and well. It's safe to say that fed is best in all circumstances, and that we respect the decisions of the family and make their experience of your setting a friendly, supportive, non-judgemental, and positive experience.  

It's not uncommon for families to bring a new born into the setting from time to time, or still be breast feeding a toddler, or maybe even a pre-schooler. It is our responsibility to make feeding a positive experience for those families.  

How can we do that? 

Firstly, take a look at your environment. Is there a designated space that is comfortable for feeding? Is there a space that is quiet? Or cosy? With a nice space to sit?  

Being in that calm, relaxed and supportive environment will rally benefit both the baby, and the person feeding, whether that is bottle feeding or breast feeding. Hungry babies are really noisy and stressful, having a designated feeding area in your setting, maybe in a private space, will really help these families with new babies feel at ease, relaxed and make that feeding experience a positive one. 

Always encourage your team to ask the families where they would feel most comfortable, and if the answer is to stay right where they are, that’s fine too. Feeding babies is completely natural, and vital for their survival. Nobody should be encouraged to hide away, but have a private space available for those who would rather use it. 

If you are a setting that takes babies, it's important to talk to your families about how they would like their baby to be fed, and be able to support them in their choice. If they wish to continue to feed their child breast milk whilst at your setting, you should be able to facilitate that. You should be able to reassure the families that you will endeavour to keep the consistency between home and the setting.  

Having a safe storage of breast milk policy will help with that.  

Sometimes families really want to breastfeed, but they just don’t have the support from their partners, their circle, and their families.  

How can settings offer some support? 

Having information available to families regarding the benefits of breast feeding, being able to sign post to local breast-feeding support groups, and maybe even offer some time to support the non-breast- feeding parent, discuss the benefits of breastfeeding, and how to support breast feeding at home and in the community.  

Offer some information about nipple shields, expressing, storing and preparing breast milk at home. And things that they can do to help out whilst baby is being fed – making mum a cup of tea, making sure she’s comfy, picking up the toys, putting a load of washing on. Talk to them about how they can bond with baby when they're not feeding – this could be taking the lead with nappy changing, or nap time routines. It could be winding and burping, and playing. Talk to the other parent about the importance of skin to skin with them as well as the breast-feeding parent.  

Think about colleagues coming back from maternity leave too.  

Will they need a space to express milk for their babies? How can you as their employer facilitate that?  

It is important that this is covered during your return-to-work interview with members of your team returning from maternity leave. Ensuring rotas are able to facilitate members of staff who need to express at regular intervals throughout the day, and that they have a private and comfortable space to do this, as well as a safe space to store any breast milk until this milk is given to their child.  

The same support you offer to the families in your settings should be available for these colleagues.  

Being a feeding friendly setting is a whole setting approach, all colleagues need to be on board, and open to all kinds of feeding. Support should be available for everybody, and everybody should be welcomed, not judged and their requests facilitated as best as you can with the resources you’ve got.  

Please see our policy document for more detail

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