Devastation at loss of La Leche League Harrogate breastfeeding support drop ins

La Leche. Lesley Smythe with mums and little ones. (1609133AM1)
La Leche. Lesley Smythe with mums and little ones. (1609133AM1)

Breastfeeding support group La Leche League Harrogate will no longer be able to hold their drop in sessions at children’s centres across the area from the end of December this year, news which has left some mothers “devastated”.

Due to the Health Visiting Service now being required to oversee breastfeeding support, and a move towards UNICEF Baby Friendly accreditation by North Yorkshire County Council, children’s centres can no longer allocate funding or provide a space for the group to meet.

Mother-of-two Rachael Bolton, 35, said: “It’s just upsetting really, to think that other mums aren’t going to be able to have the same support and access to La Leche as I’ve had. Having that support with like-minded mums means that you feel as though you are doing the right thing and aren’t being judged. Having them at the children’s centres has been great, it’s a really good environment because people are going there anyway for other things.

“People feel like it’s a safe place, mums just know it is there to support them. If we had it somewhere else it could put up a barrier for people accessing it. It could be more of a step having to go somewhere else.”

Lesley Smythe, 59, who runs the La Leche drop ins, said: “It is such a pity that it’s not going to continue. We have hung on until the end, but it is apparent that we need to find a new venue. We are hoping to continue with a group in Harrogate or nearby, but we have got to find a venue. We’ll have to do some fundraising to put some money together. I’m really disappointed even though I’ve known it was coming for a while.”

Julie Firth, Head of Prevention at North Yorkshire County Council, has reassured concerned mothers that from January 2017 there will be a “robust model in place” across North Yorkshire for breastfeeding support. She said: “The model is already working well in some parts of the county. Breastfeeding support groups will continue to be provided in Children’s Centres, overseen by well-trained Health Visitors and with a clear route through to specialist support.”

Knaresborough County Coun Anne Jones, said: “I realise that ladies accessing the La Leche group will be distraught at the loss of service at the end of this year, but I am reliably informed by the Head of Prevention Services that the new provision, commencing in January 2017, will equal the present service and offer the bonus of a conduit to other professional services should they be identified as necessary.”

More about La Leche League Harrogate

La Leche drop in sessions are currently held at children’s centres in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and Boroughbridge. Lesley Smythe, 59, set up the first drop in session in Knaresborough six years ago, and the number of drop ins has grown since.

For a lot of the mums who have taken their children to the La Leche drop in sessions over the years, it is the end of an era.
Knaresborough Town Councillor Hannah Gostlow, who took both of her children to the Harrogate and Knaresborough drop ins, said: “La Leche is great because it helps people who might feel anxious about breastfeeding at first, just the fact that you can breastfeed with other mums gives you more confidence when you go out in public and breastfeed. So many mums will definitely miss it, they really will.”