Infant Feeding


Project Coordinator: Helen Calvert, heartmummy

The #hospitalbreastfeeding hashtag was started on Twitter following my experiences breastfeeding my youngest son who has a congenital heart defect. My website – – delivers some key messages developed from the #hospitalbreastfeeding discussions, and helps medical professionals to understand what’s in it for them when it comes to supporting breastfeeding in children’s wards and departments.

All of the posters can be downloaded for free, and the information on them can be explored in greater detail by reading the guidance section of the website.

My youngest son, David, was born on 20 September 2013 with a congenital heart defect – hypoplastic left heart syndrome. He was born by c-section at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester and then transferred to Alder Hey at a day old. He had his first open heart surgery at 5 days old, and was tube fed until he was 2½ weeks old. He was then tested for oral feeding capability and started on a bottle. He came home at 3½ weeks old and latched on to my breast at 4 weeks. He has been breastfed ever since.

Hypoplasts traditionally have trouble feeding orally, and to be breastfed is really unusual. I hand expressed colostrum for David before my c-section with the help of my best friend who is a breastfeeding peer supporter, and continued to hand express and then pump express for him throughout his stay in hospital. He had my milk down his tube, then in his bottles, then finally direct from the source!

The breastfeeding support at Alder Hey was not poor – it was adequate but it could be so much better. This is something that I am addressing with the hospital and I am aware of some excellent changes that they are putting in place. I do however have concerns about the support available for breastfeeding across the UK in any circumstances where the baby is suffering from ill health. These babies need breastmilk more, not less, than others, and so many of the perceived barriers to breastfeeding are myths based on poor understanding. Medical staff working to save lives and help babies recover from serious conditions understandably do not prioritise breastfeeding, so they need help to understand how breastfeeding can help them and how it can be an important part of comprehensive paediatric care.

There are babies on children’s wards all round the country, and in children’s hospitals, but paediatrics is consistently left out of the discussion when we talk about breastfeeding support. There is no Baby Friendly pathway for children’s hospitals, and many of these hospitals do not have a maternity unit and that expertise on site.

Children’s wards and hospitals need to have the same breastfeeding knowledge and focus as postnatal wards and NICUs. I appreciate that postnatal wards and NICUs are not perfect when it comes to infant feeding, but they are at least a part of the conversation. Paediatrics needs to be included as well.

To follow the campaign please join me on Facebook and on Twitter at the hashtag #hospitalbreastfeeding

Read the stories of other mothers on my website, and please do contact me if you have your own story to share:

There is a group of peer supporters and healthcare professionals in the Portsmouth/Southampton area looking at this issue specifically for their local hospitals.  To get involved with this group please email or join the Facebook group:

Thank you for your support.

My poster presentation as displayed at the 2016 UNICEF Baby Friendly conference:


Categories: Infant Feeding

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7 replies »

  1. So glad to hear that there is a group of peer supporters now in the Portsmouth/Southampton area to help with this. I can definitely relate to the inadequate feeding support. Jessica was breastfed for 17 months (apart from two 6-week breaks when she had chylothorax and which I expressed through to maintain my milk supply) and I was constantly told that it was unheard of for a baby with HLHS to be breastfeeding at whatever age she was at the time the comment was being made. Since then I have encountered at least two other HLHS babies who have been breastfed long-term which is encouraging but if I’d been less determined and stubborn about breastfeeding, I would never have managed to keep going for anywhere near as long as I did – it certainly wasn’t due to the support I received! Such an important campaign to help improve the support for mums and babies in similar situations. Thank you for linking to #hearttoheartlinky


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