The prospect of giving birth during a pandemic must have been quite daunting for many of the women having their babies at Queen’s Hospital.
While a birthing partner has always been allowed during labour at the hospital, run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT), visiting restrictions to keep patients and staff safe meant they had to leave straight after, and the usual visits from loved ones couldn’t happen once the baby was born either.
So given the difficulties women faced, the Trust was delighted thatvisiting restrictions on the Postnatal ward have actually led to more of a community develop among the new mums – and saw breastfeeding rates shoot up.
Angeline Brafi, ward manager on the Postnatal ward, said: “We started to notice during the pandemic that more of the curtains were pulled back, while they were previously often closed during family visits.
“I saw that lots of the mums were breastfeeding more freely. We’ve seen that without other patients’ partners around, women aren’t embarrassed to start breastfeeding. And the community they’ve built up means they talk to each other about it, and give each other support and advice. It’s been lovely to see them encouraging each other, and for something positive to come during the pandemic.”
The Trust’s Infant Feeding team is always on hand to support new mums, and has been more on demand than ever.
Angeline has also been pleased to see the community-feel has extended beyond the hospital, with some new mums even exchanging phone numbers.
She added: “Some of the mums have been sharing details so they can keep in touch and even meet up with their babies, safely of course! We didn’t see that before.
“I really hope this continues and even though we’ve started to reintroduce visiting, this is at set times so mums still have plenty of time to themselves.”
Angeline, a mum-of-three herself, has been at the Trust right from the start of her nursing career, training with BHRUT in 2001. She’s always wanted to be a midwife and was encouraged to complete her training in 2010 by her own midwife, who looked after her during the birth of her second child!