Today’s post has been written by a friend of mine, Emma. I never imagined back at the beginning of 2011 that the lady I met at my local breastfeeding support group would become such a huge part of my life. It’s funny that although we speak practically every day, it is usually not face to face but through social media, texts and emails! :D
Emma has thrown herself into volunteering for our local NCT branch. In addition to being the driving force behind Breastfeeding Friendly Chester, after suffering her own loss, she set up and runs a local ‘Rainbow Babies’ group and is currently on a fundraising mission for Chester Childbirth Appeal. She does all this whilst bringing up her two gorgeous children and really is an inspiration and I am really glad to know her…
I’m really excited to be involved with the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, and to be doing a guest post for Life Love and Living with Boys! I thought it was a good opportunity to look back at the first year of Breastfeeding Friendly Chester, a parent run scheme highlighting good places to breastfeed.
A couple of NCT Chester volunteers first started thinking about a Breastfeeding Friendly scheme in June last year. We wanted to create a scheme that helped families to lead a full life while breastfeeding. Our aim was to launch a scheme by Chester parents, for Chester parents, tailored to local needs.
We initially had a small budget from the local NCT branch of £200. The first thing we did was write a questionnaire to see if the scheme was needed – no point in going to lots of effort if there was no need for it in Chester! We wanted to find out what parents thought made somewhere good for breastfeeding, as well as asking them to recommend places that were particularly good or bad. The questionnaire also asked what times of the day parents were out and about with their babies, and how much money they were spending in cafes, restaurants etc. We hoped that this information would help businesses to see the financial benefit of joining our scheme.
The survey showed us that when deciding where to go, the most important things to local parents were
1) Generally feeling welcome
2) Comfortable seating
3) Discreet seating
4) Baby changing facilities
We used this information to build the Breastfeeding Friendly Chester scheme.
Each venue joining the scheme signs our commitments:
- We will welcome breastfeeding in any public part of our premises
- We will display the Breastfeeding Friendly logo to show we belong to the scheme
- We will train our staff to make breastfeeding families feel welcome
The venue is added to our directory and map, which both show the facilities available at each location, including comfortable and discreet seating, baby change, highchairs and baby food / children’s menu. As Breastfeeding Friendly Chester is run and financed by the local NCT branch, we felt it was important that the scheme was useful to all families with young children, however they chose to feed their babies. Parents can access the interactive map from computers or smart phones, so they can easily find venues when out and about. We also post regular updates on Facebook and Twitter so parents find out about new venues as they sign up.
We started to contact businesses about the scheme in October, and found the best approach was to call in and speak to the manager or owner. We were pleasantly surprised by how receptive most businesses were – Starbucks signed up on our first day and within 8 weeks we had 20 venues! The most difficult thing is finding the time to get out and speak to people as all the volunteers involved have young families. We’ve only had 2 outright refusals (we’ve made it clear to those businesses that mums have a legal right to breastfeed) but we’re starting to realise that some businesses are being very evasive! The fact that some people are reluctant to sign up has made us more determined to promote the businesses that have joined us.
We’ve recently trialed signing up by email, but the success rate has been much lower than face to face, only 10% of businesses replied to our email. As Breastfeeding Friendly Chester is run by parents, for parents, we’ve always been very keen to get regular feedback and ideas from local parents. We regularly conduct surveys to find out how effective the scheme is, and ask for ideas on how we can improve the scheme. We also ask parents to recommend good places to breastfeed, and thank those parents when their recommended venue signs up.
In January, we started monthly meet ups, meeting at a different venue each month. Its a good way for parents to meet other breastfeeding families, and also for our venues to see the main benefit of joining our scheme – new customers! We try to have a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter from the local hospital at each meet up too so they can provide support if anyone has any problems or questions.
Official Breastfeeding Friendly Chester Photos Courtesy of Julie Smith
As of 31st May,we have
63 venues signed up,
255 Facebook likers,
408 people following us on Twitter,
and have spent £400.
We hope to continue to build the scheme in 2012, and would love to have a Breastfeeding Friendly Chester App! But the real success of the scheme is shown in the feedback we’ve had from parents.
In a recent survey 94% said BFF Chester had made it easier for them to find places to feed their baby, and 100% would recommend us to a friend.
Here’s a few of the lovely comments we’ve had from parents:
“Its an excellent idea and gives you so much more confidence to breastfeed whilst out and about!”
“Great service, enjoy the regular updates on fb and great being out and about and able to use the BFF venues. Thanks!”
“I’m not currently breastfeeding but think its a great idea. Would definitely be visiting the venues if I was, will recommend to bf mums.”
“I think this is a vital resource, I became aware of it just after I gave up breastfeeding but I would have found it really helpful at the time and have since used it to pass on to other breastfeeding friends.”
“A really great scheme and I personally find it reassuring to know that when I go out I know if a place is going to be welcoming to breastfeeders. Well done everyone involved!”
“It’s great to know there are places that encourage breastfeeding, making outings a lot easier.”
If anyone is thinking about launching a Breastfeeding Friendly scheme in their area, I would highly recommend it! Setting up this scheme has been a fantastic experience, I’ve learnt lots of new skills and starting using old skills I’d forgotten I had after 4 years out of the workplace! I’ve also met lots of lovely people, and the feedback from mums has made all the hard work worthwhile. If you’re thinking about setting up a scheme, please feel free to get in touch with email@example.com. We don’t have all the answers, our scheme’s not perfect, but we’d be happy to chat!
This post was part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt which took place in June 2012.
The Grand Prize Draw and the chance to enter a Bib-Bob from Babi-Mam as detailed below have now ended.
Babi-Mam is run by a lovely lady, Erika who hand makes the designs which are described as ‘Breastfeeding Modesty Garments’. Now I know, there are mixed feelings about breastfeeding covers but I think that if a cover ensures a Mum feels confident feeding in public and extends her breastfeeding journey then I am all for them.
Babi-Mam is unique in that the covers DON’T cover baby but actually adapt your everyday clothing for breastfeeding in public. I wish I had found these covers before our journey was in it’s final stages as Pooh Bear rarely feeds out nowadays :( It would also have extended my wardrobe somewhat as I always tend to wear clothes I can pull up and never down for fear of exposing too much flesh up top. A Hip-Bob or Bib-Bob would have solved this problem for me. Please pop over to the Babi-Mam website to see how the covers work. They are also really reasonably priced and you save money by not having to splash out on expensive bursing clothes too!
I have a Beach Flower Bib-Bob to giveaway and all you have to do is leave a comment below telling me the strangest place you have fed your baby in public. If you are pregnant, and haven’t yet breastfed, why not find out if you have a Breastfeeding Friendly/Welcome Scheme in your area and leave me a comment.
For an extra entry, please tweet ” I’m on the @KeepBritainBF Scavenger Hunt with @scattymumofboys @BFFChester and Babi-Mam ” and leave an extra comment to let me know you have tweeted.
This can’t be a condition of entry but if you would like to ‘LIKE’ Babi-Mam on Facebook, it would be great. Erika has also donated a Polka Dot Hip-Bob for the Grand Prize :)
The competition winner will be drawn at random using Random.Org on Thursday 5th July. Entries MUST be received by Midnight on Wednesday 4th July and is only open to UK residents.
Here are some more lovely bloggers also taking part in the Scavenger Hunt so make sure you pop along, have a read and enter their competitions too :)
Diary of a First Child
Life Happens So Smile
A New Addition
Disclosure: I received a Bib-Bob and Hip-Bob for the purposes of the competitions but have not received any payment or products for myself. I truly think they are fabulous products and did not need an incentive to promote them.