I quickly realised that I needed a whole new map of my city: one that outlined the best places to meet, sit, feed without feeling awkward or in the way. better still, I needed places with built-in free activities ; mother groups, childrens activities for friends with toddlers and anywhere, ANYWHERE WITH CAKE.
In this year of years, mothers have experienced the most challenging circumstances: solo scans, solo births, isolation and a loss of family support. All the more reason to press ahead with Coventry City of Breastfeeding, my project for Coventry City of Culture 2021. It was an experience with massive highs and lows against a backdrop of restrictions, fear and uncertainty, I tried to create something worthy of the wise women of Coventry…
A baby’s brain is constantly making new pathways. 250,000 neurons are formed per minute in a fetal brain throughout pregnancy and that proliferation, migration, differentiation, synaptogenesis continue into the toddler years and pruning of these until puberty. Each baby’s personality, body, brain and trans generational inheritance is of course unique and dependent upon their DNA, yet their experiences and exposure to the world around them throughout pregnancy and in early life also all have an effect on them.
I spoke about my project and the aims of partnering with the CTU for Coventry City of Culture. I showed the animated portraits, as well as a slideshow of stills. it was the first time I had presented the work in a meidcal setting and I found the atmosphere invigorating. It gave me new insight into how clinical trials lead the way to greater understanding of new approaches.
For this event I put together a slideshow, beginning with the story of my own struggles to breastfeed, then the rationale for the Holding Time still images, how these lead to the animation and installation. Finally I talked about the project website, the breastfeeding Hubs, the YouTube Channel interviews.
Over the past few weeks I have been at the gallery every day. Sometimes I just sat on the beanbags and enjoyed the quiet. Other days I had others to join me: Lucila came almost every day. Many mothers came with their children. But also quite a few fathers. And others who had never had children; young women interested in the subject with their boyfriends, mothers whose babies had grown, mothers who had not breastfed, mothers who were still breastfeeding their four year old, mothers with newborns still struggling with the adjustment to motherhood.
Researchers at Wolverhampton University are gathering data on Holding Time’s impact on the community online and offline through surveys about breastfeeding attitudes
In this BLOG post Dr Lisa J. Orchard, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the Faculty of Education, Health and Wellbeing at the University of Wolverhampton, introduces their innovative study, designed to measure the impact of the Holding Time Project on viewers. Please add your data to the survey!
Breastfeeding has profound and long-lasting health advantages, but the risks of poor maternal well-being run just as deep. The “breast is best” message has, in many cases, done more harm than good for both breastfeeding and formula feeding women. Words carry a lot of power and we need to be very careful of their use in future breastfeeding promotion campaigns.
For many, the current WHO recommendation of six months of exclusive breastfeeding is simply not realistic and can discourage mothers from even initiating breastfeeding. Instead we should follow a woman-centred approach where mothers are empowered to set their own realistic targets.
With an audience of NHS staff, the social prescribing Team from WHAM, members of the local CCG and local breastfeeding mentors, the performances by mothers were entertaining, moving and full of meaning.
This year I received a prestigious DYCP Arts Council grant to explore the possibilities of Holding Time in VR. I set about researching the potential of VR to be a new way of showing the animation installation without the need for a ‘real’ space.
In the UK, breastfeeding has been recognised as having a major role to play in public health and in reducing health inequalities, and has been translated into policy programmes such as the Baby Friendly Initiative that accredits health care facilities that adopt recognised best practice standards for breastfeeding. However, less than 1% of babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (Bolling et al., 2007). Not only that, a comprehensive review series on breastfeeding in The Lancet, published on 30 January this year, gave a clear signal of what is needed to be done and pointed at Britain as having “the worst breastfeeding rates in the world”.
Breastfeeding is food. It is part of the wider network of food production and relations. The food of love, as it has been called. And it is. Breastfeeding provides sustenance and nourishment and love in one swift gesture.
Breastfeeding is not the norm in the UK, and breastfeeding in public can be especially daunting to a new mother. The anxiety that many women face shows that. In the last Infant Feeding Survey, 45% of mothers said they felt uncomfortable feeding in front of others, and most acutely so in public spaces*.
The arguments for breastfeeding in terms of health are already won, but breastfeeding statistics remain impossibly low in the UK. How can this be? Because the barriers to breastfeeding are cultural, not medical but the majority of information about breastfeeding comes from the medical community. This viewpoint says that women should breastfeed, without acknowledging the personal and emotional struggles involved in doing so.