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Community rail partnership leads try-the-train trip in support of breastfeeding campaign

Photo credit: Peter Alvey.

Businesses across South Cambridgeshire are being encouraged to welcome families who breastfeed and/or pump thanks to a new campaign launched this month.

Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton Community Rail Partnership (CRP) have worked with South Cambridgeshire District Council, NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Infant Feeding Team and the ‘Best Start in Life’ partnership to support venues across the district to become more welcoming to families who breastfeed and/or pump in public.

Almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, but this drops to below half within six to eight weeks. Evidence shows the right support can help families sustain breastfeeding for longer.

The #FreeToFeedCP campaign is encouraging businesses and community venues to pledge their support for families who breastfeed and/or pump by signing up and displaying the sticker and promotional material in their premises.

The campaign is designed to raise the confidence of families and increase understanding among the public, businesses and community venues. Breastfeeding-friendly venues often report a real improvement in customer service and can have the added benefit of attracting a new client base.

Among the first businesses to take the #FreeToFeedCP are Shepreth Wildlife Park and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). To launch the campaign, a group of families took a train trip from Cambridge to the animal park to enjoy a day out.

Photo credit: Peter Alvey.

Sarah Grove is the Project Officer at Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton CRP, and was instrumental in setting up the train trip as part of the campaign. Of the project, she said: “I was asked by the team setting up the #FreeToFeedCP campaign whether there was a way we could promote the scheme using a train trip. Shepreth Wildlife Park have always been a great supporter of our CRP, so I knew they were close to the station and had great facilities for families with children of all ages.

“I have a great contact at Cambridge Station, who had let all the staff there known that we were coming, and we had Amie from GTR to accompany us. I like to give everyone an introduction before we get on the train, and remind them that all the information they need – platform numbers, directions to the toilets, information screens – are usually just above head height. It’s natural to look down at your feet when you’re feeling nervous, but if you take a deep breath and look up, it’s easy to find your way. Amie showed us the best way to get buggies on an off the train, and we also discovered that GTR trains have baby changing facilities on board.

“We had a drink and a cake in the café at Shepreth Wildlife Park, and the families felt very comfortable to breastfeed and chat. Another on-time train again on the way home meant a stress-free journey back to Cambridge, with some of the babies being fed again on the train. Comments from the families included ‘an enjoyable trip and got some useful tips’, ‘definitely think I’ll travel by train again’ and ‘a very enjoyable, empowering experience’”.  

Photo credit: Peter Alvey.

Councillor Bridget Smith, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “Breastfeeding is proven to be very beneficial to the health of the mother and baby. It should not be daunting for mothers to breastfeed or pump in bars, cafés, restaurants and other venues while they are out with their children.

“As someone who breastfed all three of my sons, I feel strongly that normalising breastfeeding and pumping in public is really important and something we can all help with through conversation and support.”

Jenny Saunders, Customer Services Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “We’re committed to making our services as comfortable and accessible as possible for everyone. That includes making breastfeeding and pumping normal everyday activities on the train, that no-one feels awkward about.

“It was a great pleasure to welcome these Cambridgeshire families on this special trip, and to support this important campaign by the District Council and their NHS partners.

“I breastfed both my kids, and on a train too, so this is something I really endorse. I hope the event gives all breastfeeding pumping families the confidence to travel with us and feel ‘Free to Feed’.”

To take the pledge and become breastfeeding friendly, venues must adopt the “breastfeeding welcome” policy, and ensure staff are aware of how to implement it.

For more information and how to get involved, visit the South Cambridgeshire District Council #FreeToFeedCP page on their website, or Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust website.

To keep up to date with future projects and events from Meldreth, Shepreth and Foxton CRP, see their website.