A new campaign is aiming to help mums in Bedfordshire become more confident when breastfeeding in public.
The Luton and Bedfordshire #FreeToFeed campaign is being launched by NHS Community services and local authorities.
Businesses, members of the public and other mums are being encouraged to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and to help new mums feel comfortable feeding their children when out in public.
Sarah, a mum from Luton, said: “It was harder at the beginning. I haven’t been confident breastfeeding because I was conscious of the looks that I’d get.
“Now I’m used to breastfeeding, I don’t care - my children come first, and I know the benefits of breastfeeding. When my baby needs it, I’ll give it to him.”
After surveying more than 350 local mothers, they found that 55% said they felt extremely or very confident breastfeeding out and about, while 32% were somewhat confident and 13% were not confident or not at all confident.
Rebecca, a mum from Bedfordshire, said: “To be able to breastfeed, I feel quite accomplished, I feel I have an amazing bond with my son, and I’ve given him the best start in life that I could - it’s the best decision I made.
“It’s one of the most amazing gifts you can give to your child, and it’s a shame that it’s become a rare sighting as opposed to the norm.”
Rates of breastfeeding are declining across England, according to Public Health England, 59% of mothers in Luton, 49% in Central Bedfordshire and 55% in Bedford Borough are breastfeeding 6-8 weeks after their child’s birth.
At the same time, UNICEF estimates that 80% of UK mums stop breastfeeding before they want to, often due to lack of support.
Sarah Pickford, practice development lead for Bedfordshire Community Health Services, said: “We recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, but the longer you breastfeed, the greater the benefits.
“That’s why it’s so important in the long term for mums to build their confidence breastfeeding in public, and for businesses to support them – we’re even providing stickers for businesses to display and show their support for the campaign.”
Rachel Hopkins, Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Luton, said: “Breastfeeding is a wonderful, healthy thing to do for your child, but it can be very challenging at the beginning.
“Mothers can feel anxious or unwelcome when trying to breastfeed out and about, so it’s important that businesses, members of the public and other mums support them in overcoming these challenges and persisting with breastfeeding for as long as they choose.”