Pledge on funding ‘is a start’ but mums continue fight to save Northampton breast feeding cafe

editorial image

CAMPAIGNERS for threatened breast feeding services in Northampton said a pledge to look into some funds for new mums is a start.

But they have said the fight for the popular baby cafe building in Northampton must still go on.

Today sees the debate on the future of breast feeding support in Northampton reach County Hall, with a watered-down motion expressing support for the natural feeding of babies.

An expected packed public gallery should hear today the NHS is looking at ways of having breast feeding clinics at two children’s Sure Start centres in different parts of the county.

But the move would still fall short of retaining the popular drop-in service at its current Wellington Street base in Northampton town centre.

Kim Watts, a breast feeding mum, said: “The fight really has to go on. What we have been battling for is the best possible support services and that is the cafe.

“It is perfectly located for anyone who wants to travel and moving it about is not going to be of real benefit.

“This is a small boost to us, having other types of support is really good.

“But our campaign has not finished yet.”

The debate reached today’s full council meeting of Northamptonshire County Council after mums and babies marched through town to urge the council to lobby NHS Northamptonshire, on whose £16,000 funding the cafe depends.

A meeting with mums on Monday by Councillor Robin Brown (Con, Braunston), the cabinet member for social services, accompanied by NHS manager, revealed that health bosses are still willing to fund breast feeding services, but in a different form.

It is understood they are looking into ways the two staff who work for the company that runs the cafe could be funded.

However it is likely they will be at breast feeding clinics around the county. It is believed the currently-closed cafe, at the Friends Meeting House, will not be considered.

The Northampton Baby Cafe, which opened two days a week, was established in 2004 and since then has seen more than 1,600 different women and their babies.

Surveys have shown that, without help, 26 per cent of mums revert to bottle feeding after six months, compared with 49 per cent who have support.

The benefits of persisting are proven.

Apart from being free, breastfeeding is credited with a reduction in cases of many medical problems in children, from ear infections to diabetes.

Today’s motion by the Liberal Democrats had originally called on Robin Brown to lobby NHS Northamptonshire over the potential loss of the cafe.

The motion will still say that the council: “...believes that breast feeding services, accessible to the most vulnerable in our communities, help give local children the best possible start in life and are crucial in promoting good health for young families and tackling health inequalities later in life.”

However the references to lobbying the NHS, a specific request of the campaigners’ petition, have been removed by the Tory cabinet.

Instead, apparently closing out the possibility of supporting the baby cafe building, it now reads: “The council calls on the cabinet member to work with the primary care trust and public health team to establish the long-term viability of breast feeding services across Northamptonshire, which provide equality of access and helps to successfully implement the Baby Friendly initiative across the county.”

The meeting will start in the council chamber at 10.30 am today.