Expanding NCT’s breastfeeding support services

Head of Knowledge, Sarah McMullenEarlier this year, as part of the evidence-gathering stage of ourNCTservices, we worked with Good Innovation to gather robust insight from parents through 130 in-depth discussions during pregnancy and after birth. We travelled across the UK, speaking to those who had done NCT antenatal courses as well as those that hadn’t.

Unsurprisingly, breastfeeding was one of the most emotive subjects discussed. Women and their partners expressed a desperate need for more accessible breastfeeding support, alongside greater realism of how challenging breastfeeding can be. The vast majority of women that we spoke to found establishing breastfeeding a very challenging experience, much harder than they ever expected. Poor experiences of postnatal care and not being able to access quality support once at home were associated with negative feeding experiences and feelings of failure for many of the women we spoke to. In contrast, mums who accessed good support valued it enormously.

Strengthening and growing our models of breastfeeding support is a key area of focus for us as we move into the implementation stage of the ourNCTservices project, alongside work to ensure all parents feel prepared and supported by our services whatever their feeding decisions.

In the meantime, we already have good news and progress to share from the continual improvement work happening with our central support teams.

The Volunteer Support team have been working closely with Juliet Smithson (Service Operations) and Michelle Longman (Partnerships) to improve the support we provide for NCT branches who are looking to make local grant applications for breastfeeding drop-ins, Baby Cafés or peer support. The team are already working with a number of branches and we hope to be able to share success stories soon. Volunteers and practitioners who would like support with grant applications and setting up services can get in touch via the Enquiries Team.

The Commissioned Services team have also worked with the peer support management group to redesign branch peer support training and reflective support packages to make them better value for branches. We hope this will help make it easier to set up and sustain breastfeeding peer support locally.

We’ve had some great success with securing funding for breastfeeding services recently. In Bradford, our contract to deliver breastfeeding peer support has been extended for another year, including piloting social media support. We have also worked closely with the commissioners to help shape the design of the service and the outcomes that they measure. We have two new grants for breastfeeding peer support training in Nuneaton and Wolverhampton, with lots of other branches submitting applications.

In Scotland, we will be rolling out two new areas for NCT to deliver Baby Café and breastfeeding peer support, including neonatal units across several Level 3 units. We will also be trialling the delivery of peer support training and reflective support by Skype for volunteers on the Scottish Islands. If this works well it could lead to wider roll out of the service across rural areas and other island communities.

We appreciate that not everyone is sharing in this good news – other areas have experienced funding cuts and loss of services locally. This challenging context is why the ourNCTservices project is so important – helping us all to think creatively and carefully about how we reduce the barriers to setting up and funding our services, so that more parents can access much needed support.

Thank you to all of our volunteers and practitioners who are working so hard to make sure families get the support they want and need – it really does make an enormous difference.

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