During National Breastfeeding week at the start of August Improving Me, the NHS Cheshire and Merseyside’s Women and Children’s Partnership launched the Holding Time Project. This involved a call for participants in an inter-disciplinary, multi-channel art project, developed by visual artist Lisa Creagh on behalf of the partnership.
The focus is breastfeeding with an aim to use photography, video, animation, storytelling and writing to encourage local mothers to participate in a collective portrait of breastfeeding, motherhood and maternal experiences during COVID-19 lockdown.
Although breastfeeding is cited as the ‘most effective health intervention in a human lifetime’ (Diehr et al 2007), UK breastfeeding rates remain some of the lowest in the world (Quigley et al 2016). Worse still, there is a socio- economic divide in the UK with mothers in the most deprived areas of the country up to four times less likely to breastfeed compared to mothers in the most affluent areas. This has created a UK wide health inequality, despite the overwhelming evidence that breastfeeding has a protective influence on both children’s early health (Ajetunmobi, Whyte, 2012) and maternal mental health.
Holding Time is both a celebration of breastfeeding and an exploration of the challenges mothers experience in establishing and maintaining breastfeeding. These issues may be physical, mental, environmental or cultural barriers. Holding Time will give women a voice. It will feature a range of opportunities for women to share their experiences, aiming to empower breastfeeding mothers, improve understanding about the complexity of issues around breastfeeding through open conversations and increased public dialogue and ultimately increase breastfeeding rates. It will be an integral component of the Cheshire and Merseyside annual Baby Week celebrations in November and will include links to a simultaneous music intervention to address perinatal mental health, the Lullaby Project. The first phase of the project will culminate in a video installation and exhibition which will be shown in various locations as well as online and on social media. Women are invited to express an interest in participation at Holding TimeOvercoming the Cultural Barriers to BreastfeedingCheshire and Merseyside 2021-22.