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Lockdown Babies – Breastfeeding during a pandemic, how West Leeds support services keep going

Pandemics don’t stop babies being born – and more than ever more mothers are choosing to breastfeed because of the protection against infections that it offers, writes Suzanne Tobin.

But what happens when you need support? We know 8/10 mothers stop breastfeeding before they wanted and we are here to help you meet your own breastfeeding goals.

Following the closure of centres, following government Covid-19 guidance, the Coordinators, Suzanne and Cath from Health for All, set up an immediate alternative to breastfeeding groups.

In West Leeds the Pudsey and Armley peer support groups are very well attended and run by local volunteers so this was a huge blow to the area.

In Pudsey the Wellbeing Centre Charity supports the group by providing a room and in Armley the local Children’s Centre provide the venue and support. With Leeds Bosom Buddies in 12 groups all across Leeds we knew we had to act fast to help families.

Every Wednesday you can get support by joining our Citywide Zoom 10.30am-12pm, where it’s as much about seeing a friendly face and social support as well as the breastfeeding support.

Register in advance for this meeting.

One mum said:

“Having never had chance to see other mums or family in person since my son was born, it’s been really reassuring to chat to you all on zoom, get advice and a better sense of whether certain breastfeeding challenges are normal (it seems they mostly are!). The positive of lockdown is it’s helped us have time to bond with our new baby and to have space to get breastfeeding established.”

Teresa Newsome, Peer supporter says:

“I’m so pleased that we peer supporters can at least offer a weekly support group, so we can find out if last night was better for a particular mum, or if baby latched from the other side today or even if she managed to get her tea hot! 

“Knowing we can’t just say ‘See you at the group!’, and giving mums that cuppa and a hug that we all know cures everything in that moment is heart wrenching.  I’m so looking forward to regaining our group, and our community that grows within it. 

“We will try to learn more ways of supporting our mums ready for the groups return, with a big emphasis on supporting mums with their mental health. We’re all aware of the massive impact the Covid-19 and its impact has been having on each other, especially the mums with their brand new babies. I’ll personally continue to be in awe of Cath and Suzanne and proud as punch of my fellow Bosom Buddy peer supporters –  Roll on group life!” 

You can also get support from Leeds Bosom Buddies support group on Facebook, now boasting over 350 members. Support  can also be arranged via telephone, email, private message and zoom. Between them, Cath and Suzanne have also volunteered for La leche League for over 40yrs, an amazing achievement!

For World Breastfeeding Awareness week the them this year was Breastfeeding For a Healthier Planet. We ran an incredible five meets around Leeds “Boobies in the Park”, an idea from one of our peer supporters Abby Carden who knew it would be just what the families needed to reduce isolation and find some local friends. 

Abby said: “It was an amazing success and feel it was very much needed, the mums loved getting out with their babes and being around like minded women they really benefited from the support of the peer supporters.”

With around 125 families supported between the events they have been an incredible success and more so.

On the 3rd August in Pudsey Park we launched the first of our events with glorious weather. With our carefully planned risk assessed, covid secure plan, Leeds Bosom Buddies peer support volunteers and co-ordinators went out to meet the mums.

Gemma, a Pudsey peer supporter, had this to say about the event:

“As peer supporters, we know that adjusting to life with a new baby is incredibly hard – even without a pandemic to deal with – and it’s vital we surround ourselves with people who can help us.

“When had my first son I was completely unprepared for breastfeeding, even though I’d been to my antenatal classes! I really relied on dropping into the Pudsey breastfeeding group to get help and reassurance. Just being around other breastfeeding women really boosts your confidence as a new mum. 

“It was so wonderful we were able to offer this vital face to face support again after so long, even though we couldn’t provide our usual cups of tea and doughnuts!

“I loved seeing mums who we last saw in winter with their tiny newborns, now with their happy and healthy babies crawling around the park, eating their snacks and playing with their toys. And I was blown away by meeting the incredible, brave, resilient mums who have given birth during lockdown; learning to breastfeed in isolation using social media and video calls. Hopefully our event in the park helped local mums and babies to feel connected to their community again.”

Local mum Tori, with baby Xander, who’ve been attending the online zoom meets before the park meet told us this:

“To be quite honest, Bosom Buddies has got me through some really difficult and isolating times during lockdown and the park meet up was the icing on the cake. It felt like a little bit of the maternity leave I’d imagined had finally come true and it was so nice to see mums and babies face to face.

“To create and maintain such a supportive community in such challenging circumstances is a great achievement and all involved in Bosom Buddies should be really proud of how quickly and how well they’ve adapted.”

Heather says: “I attended the Boobies in the Park at Pudsey and it made me realise what we’ve been missing out on because of the pandemic.

“I gave birth three weeks before lockdown so just as I was getting ready to attend groups, they all got shut down. My breastfeeding journey has been challenging and I’ve really struggled at times. Thankfully, I have already seen a vast improvement after the advice I was given at Pudsey.

“It was lovely to meet other Mums and to speak to Suzanne in person. I’d love Boobies in the Park to be a regular thing. I honestly think my breastfeeding journey would have been easier, and maybe less stressful, had the support groups been available throughout.”

Rachel added:

“I attended with my two year old, Ethan and brought along my friend Jo and her two year old Leo. It was nice to see all the little babies being fed in a comfortable and safe environment. I felt it was important to attend as a nursing Mummy of a ‘toddler’ to help promote and normalise natural term weaning. The event was well-planned in the current climate and the location was beautiful.

For more information, contact Suzanne Tobin –


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