Professor Amy Brown has devoted her career at Swansea University to increasing understanding of breastfeeding, helping to create an environment and culture where breastfeeding is normal, valued and supported. She has published extensively and her work has been read in countries all over the world. She has recently published three new books which further highlight her research.
“I actually came to Swansea as an undergraduate student in 2000 and went on to do an MSc and then PhD here too.
Initially my PhD was going to explore obesity, parenting and older children, but within the first year I had my first baby. This introduced me to the world of infant feeding and maternal mental health. I met so many women who wanted to breastfeed but seemed to be encountering difficulties. I decided to shift the focus of my research aiming to understand why the situation was so complex and how we could set about changing things.
Since then, alongside colleagues and students, I have published over one hundred articles, book chapters and books on women’s experiences of infant feeding and the support that they need. This has led to the development of our new research centre, LIFT (Lactation, Infant Feeding and Translation) which aims to ‘lift’ the many barriers women face in feeding their baby.
Our primary goal is to change the bigger picture – we want to make sure that every woman who has a baby and wants to breastfeed has the right support from healthcare professionals, the right support from her employer, and is breastfeeding in a society that doesn’t criticise her or try to persuade her to stop. We want this to be embedded in a wider culture that values motherhood and new families and includes extended, better paid maternity leave and flexible working.
We have gone some way to achieving this, having presented our research to parliament in the UK, and in Australia and New Zealand with our research underpinning infant feeding policies around the world. The new Australian Department of Health Breastfeeding strategy, for example, draws strongly on our research and considers this approach as fundamental to making real change.
Most importantly, we want breastfeeding to be viewed as a societal not individual responsibility, ending this culture of a lack of investment and individual focus that leads to women blaming themselves when breastfeeding doesn’t work.
I wish I could say we had solved the problem and all women now receive the support they need, but things are definitely moving in the right direction.”
Professor Brown’s new books, Informed is best: how to spot fake news about your pregnancy, birth and baby; Why breastfeeding grief and trauma matters and A guide to supporting breastfeeding for the medical profession are available now.