LCpl Natasha Day had her son Charlie and returned to work in March last year, whilst exclusively breastfeeding. On moving to a new posting, she lost her supportive group of other breastfeeding mummy friends that she’d made during maternity leave. Here she explains how she’s gone about building a support network to help other women in the military community…
“Returning to any workplace after maternity is extremely daunting. Chuck in the need to express breast milk, the mum guilt and the fear of how your new workplace will receive you is no fun running on four hours’ sleep,” says Natasha.
Inclusive and supportive
“I thought about the military families who don’t have support around them and that’s when I decided to create an online safe space for servicewomen to connect,” she explains. “I’ve set up the Defence Breastfeeding Network. It’s tri-service and also supports spouses and partners of serving personnel – as I know they also bear the brunt of what can be a very isolating lifestyle.”
With some servicewomen feeling forced to stop breastfeeding due to work commitments, Natasha was keen for the group to be a safe space for all.
“Members can post photos, ask advice and seek clarification on current policies without the formalities of rank. Every member shares ownership of the success of the group, which is one of the things that makes it so wonderful,” says Natasha.
The network has been able to provide breastfeeding peer support training to its members, thanks to the charity Families and Babies, based in Lancashire. This is enabling members of the network to go on to safely support breastfeeding mothers locally, online and over helplines.
“One of the most important things on a breastfeeding journey is the right education and support for the mother, which is why the network is so great,” says Natasha.
“Many mums struggle to balance longer-term breastfeeding with service due to the need to go on career courses or deploy on exercise, but it’s absolutely do-able with the right support with many of our members feeding until past the age of three.”
Members of the support network agree. Hana Stewart says: “The network is incredible for those serving and spouses. I know from experience that breastfeeding support can be inconsistent, so having access to this is vital to help all who need it!”
Maj Gemma Griffiths who has baby Robyn adds: “The network has helped me to make breastfeeding seem like a ‘normal’ and supported choice for women. “It’s not about breast versus bottle, it’s about making sure that every working mum gets to make a choice that’s right for her and her baby.”
To find out more, search Defence Breastfeeding Network on Facebook.