Providing a network of support for mothers and babies

Research has shown there is overwhelming evidence that the bond between parent and child from birth to the age of three becomes even more crucial to a child’s development when added to poverty and other disadvantages. A pioneering project at St John the Evangelist Church in Angell, Town, Brixton, makes use of the community links of a church congregation to promote nurturing, bonding and breastfeeding rates in a deprived area of south London. In the blog below, we read about how the Babytalk project could be used as a template for other projects in churches across the country.

At St John’s, Angell Town, in Brixton, south London, parish priest Rosemarie Mallett dreams of buying a camper van to tour the local area to help bring a pioneering project promoting the well being of new mothers and babies to a bigger audience. Babytalk, based at the church, has reached more than 300 families since it was founded in 2015, running sessions at the church and within the local community and primary school on baby health, breastfeeding and bottle feeding and nurturing and bonding for mothers and babies. A survey by the National Childbirth Trust last year showed as many as a third of new mothers experience difficulty bonding with their baby. The parish, already well known in the capital for its community work on a deprived inner city estate, has drawn up its own ‘baby friendly’ policy adapted from Unicef guidelines and the policy could become a national template for work in this area for the charity Parish Nursing Ministries UK . The project whose funders include Southwark Diocese, has trained a team of volunteers to provide support to mothers and babies and has links to a Muslim women’s group. One of the pioneering aspects of the work has been ‘story telling’ workshops where mothers are encouraged to talk about their own experiences. Angela Sherridan, chaplaincy parish midwife for the church, and co-founder of the project, who works on Babytalk in a voluntary capacity, said: “On the Parochial Church Council we talked about the importance of breastfeeding and supporting mothers and finding an area if a mother wants to feed away from people. If a mum is bottle feeding, that means getting a bottle warmer in place. We are trying to help complement the NHS services and we work with the local infant feeding services including local ‘milk spots’ in Lambeth children’s centres where mothers can seek help with breastfeeding. The project is about helping women to bond with their babies and give them a network of support. It is in its early days but has already generated a lot of goodwill and support, with other community groups taking an interest, including a Latin American group asking for a package in Spanish. One of our plans in the future is to recruit a health visitor. We also hope to set up a conference to highlight some of the challenges that new mothers can face, particularly if they feel isolated. ”

Martha Linden, Archbishops’ Council senior media officer

Listen to an interview with volunteer Rosemarie Cordwell and midwife Angela Sherridan

The Babytalk project was co-founded by Canon Rosemarie Mallett, Terry Drummond, former policy adviser to the Bishop of Southwark, midwives Jess Gordon and Angela Sherridan and Mia Hilborn and the chaplaincy team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. It was inspired by work to foster links between health care and faith groups promoted by the Chaplaincy at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Its funders include Southwark Diocese, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Chaplaincy and the Lillian Nash fund.

The programme was runner up in the Ecclesiastical Insurance Churches Helping Community Competition. Read more and watch a video

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