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Breastfeeding Welcome Venues, Tower Hamlets Food Projects


As part of the approach to tackle high childhood obesity in Tower Hamlets, a scheme was developed to provide information, support and accreditation to local businesses and other public venues to enable them to become Breastfeeding Friendly. We wanted to encourage breastfeeding by making it easier for women to breastfeed their babies when they are out and about in Tower Hamlets - so that all mothers can make healthy food choices for their babies right from the start

Breastfeeding is associated with a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) in later life, and a longer duration of breastfeeding is associated with lower rates of obesity. Breastfed babies grow more slowly in infancy than formula fed babies, which may be protective against the later development of obesity. There is also evidence that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced incidence of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer and lower LDL-cholsterol concentrations in childhood and adulthood[1].

Breastfeeding helps mothers to return more quickly to their pre-pregnancy weight and may be protective against the development of maternal overweight and obesity.

Although an increasing proportion of Tower Hamlets babies are breastfed, a majority also receive formula milk. The protective factors related to obesity may not be as effective for these children.

Not being able to breastfeed outside the home may be a factor in some mothers introducing mixed feeding, or in stopping breastfeeding earlier than they and their babies would otherwise choose, and before internationally recommended times [2].


The commissioned service provider, Women’s Health and Family Services (WHFS) has built strong relationships with local businesses and public service providers, in order to develop and implement a sustainable scheme to accredit public venues as Breastfeeding Friendly.

They have linked the scheme for Tower Hamlets with the Tower Hamlets Healthy Food Awards scheme and with the National Breastfeeding Friendly Places scheme and worked closely with the Tower Hamlets Children’s Centres Breastfeeding Project and the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative.

Aims and objectives

The main aim of the serviced is for mothers to have access to places where they feel comfortable to breastfeed when they are out and about in Tower Hamlets.

Service objectives:

  • To develop and implement a scheme for the accreditation of Breastfeeding Welcome places in Tower Hamlets.
  • To accredit at least 80 Tower Hamlets businesses and public venues as ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Places.
  • To involve Tower Hamlets mothers in the development of the scheme.
  • To ensure that the scheme is publicised widely to families and to businesses and public organisations in Tower Hamlets.
  • To link the scheme with the Tower Hamlets Healthy Food Awards scheme.
  • To link the scheme with the national Breastfeeding Manifesto “Access All Areas” work.
  • To ensure that the scheme is sustainable beyond the timeframe of the project, so that existing venues can maintain accreditation and more venues can join the scheme


The stages for delivering the project were:

(1) Mapping – Providing a context for undertaking the work.

- Identify local sources of information.

(2) Fieldwork and Data Collection - Focus group interviews with groups of women residents from the local community in their own language and from different socio-economic backgrounds.

- Interviews with local businesses and public organisations.

(3) First activity report to BF Strategy Group - to include reports from first focus groups with mothers, feedback from MSLC and local businesses and venues.

(4) Publicity - Production of publicity materials publicising the scheme to businesses, venues and breastfeeding mothers.

(5) Awareness raising - 4 x Awareness raising workshops amongst breast feeding mothers in LAP areas across borough.

(6) First 50 venues accredited and publicised on national  website.

(7) Final evaluation and project report 80+ venues accredited and recommendations made for sustainability of accredited venues.


The project was publicised locally through the Healthy Boroughs programme networks to include Healthy Foods Awards, Tower Hamlets PCT breastfeeding support services and all local Children Centres. As the project developed so GP networks and pharmacists forums were used to roll out the accreditation to all GPs and Pharmacists in the borough. The project was advertised through articles in the local press and in Tower Hamlets PCT and GP publications. The venues themselves were asked to display a sticker in their window and the breastfeeding charter.

Nationally the project and all accredited venues have been advertised on the Breastfeeding Welcome Schemes website and the local and national NCT website has links to the project.

A guided history walk through Tower Hamlets for breastfeeding mums has been planned and will be advertised shortly for the launch of the final report culminating with a tea party for all concerned at an accredited community cafe.


The project will have run for 19 months through funding of £46,000 from the Healthy Boroughs programme. A project co-ordinator has been employed for 21 hours per week and has had in-house administrative and managerial support and monthly support from a multi-disciplinary steering group with members from both the voluntary and statutory sector.

Venue costs have been kept at a minimum as WHFS is a community health organisation and has access to many other groups and centres in the community with their own premises where the focus groups and awareness sessions took place.

The biggest outlay was publicity which included flyers and accreditation packs custom printed by the national breastfeeding welcome venues scheme and publicity, banners and promotional material printed by WHFS. In addition several venues had specific issues of privacy so window blinds and screens were custom made and printed for these venues.


The WHFS will seek the views of mothers to evaluate:

  • Changes in perceptions of breastfeeding out and about in Tower Hamlets
  • Awareness and understanding of the scheme
  • Use of Breastfeeding Welcome places
  • Satisfaction level and views about the scheme.

The views of businesses and public organisations will also be sought to identify the

impact of the accreditation scheme.

Learning gained during the development of the scheme will be shared and used for continual service improvement.

The final evaluation and project report is due for completion in March 2011

Lessons learned

The project engaged with a wide spectrum of stakeholders across the PCT, public health and local authority as well as third sector and nationally with the breastfeeding welcome scheme and the breastfeeding manifesto coalition. In the initial stages communication between all agencies was very confused and in future it would be more helpful to identify all stakeholders from the very start and the role they are to play in rolling out the project.

Secondly, Tower Hamlets is a very diverse borough economically, culturally and ethnically. It is of utmost importance that procedures are put in place for this project to reach and be appropriate for mothers who mainly for cultural reasons need further support in embracing the aims of the project e.g. venues that provide greater privacy and perhaps have a dual educational purpose.

Future developments

What plans are there for the future of the project?

(1)   Publicity about the project will be shortly on the Tower Hamlets NCT website to include an interactive page where mums can put up suggestions of venues to be accredited or alert the PCT to venues where there are problems.

(2)    Over 100 accredited venues are already on the national Breastfeeding Welcome site and this will increase over coming months.

(3)   A proposal has also been made for a weekly baby cafe with access for BME mothers and to include:

  • health information and advice for mums and babies
  • exercise
  • baby clothes/toys exchange
  • recipe exchange

The proposal could also connect with antenatal education/breastfeeding support in the community targeting mums who are not already linked in and be supported by the new WHFS Maternity Mates project, which recruits and trains local BME volunteer mums to support vulnerable mothers through pregnancy, birth and 6 weeks afterwards.

Project Lead Details

Jo Weller, Director Women’s Health and Family Services

Yasmin Xassan, BFWS Project Co-ordinator, Women’s Health and Family Services

Hanson M, Fall C, Robinson S and Baird J (2009) Early Life Nutrition and Lifelong Health London BMA

Department of Health Infant Feeding Recommendation (external website)