Despite accumulated evidence of the physical, emotional and mental health benefits to the child, as well as the environmental and social benefits, major obstacles to higher rates of breastfeeding remain, resulting in a UK average of 1% exclusive breastfeeding of babies at 6 months.

A commonly cited reason for abandoning breastfeeding is the cultural stigma surrounding breastfeeding in public.

Holding Time is a project dedicated to bringing about a positive change in this statistic. Through positive imagery, conversation and an ongoing programme of podcasts, new mothers are invited to consider the debates around breastfeeding from a broadened, cultural perspective. This work is aimed at increasing both the number of mothers breastfeeding and the longevity of their breastfeeding journey. Working together with mothers, a journey through Coventry's breastfeeding friendly spaces will be created with the intention, of empowering mothers and creating new social networks and sustainable communities of breastfeeding mothers.

digital content combined with live events

mother portraits

Aimed at finding and inspiring new mothers, especially those who may not otherwise engage with the Arts, this project uses digital technologies, social media, YouTube interviews, BLOG posts to align lived experiences with the latest research. We will place portraits of breastfeeding mothers in an exhibition in a prominent community space in Coventry, which can also be used as a breastfeeding 'hub' for the duration of the exhibition. The space will be used for conversations around the issues surrounding barriers to breastfeeding, along with opportunities for mothers to participate in a workshop on their experiences of attempting breastfeeding and the issues they encountered.

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workshops and talks

A programme of workshops and talks will contextualise the exhibiion and offer an enriched opportunity for discussion amongst participants/attendees.

The emphasis is on inspiration and understanding, rather than information and prescription.

mapping human geography of coventry

Part of this process will involve recruiting experienced breastfeeders to collaborate on a series of images of breastfeeding in public spaces around the city. These portraits will be exhibited, along with QR codes and a large wall map showing visitors each specific breastfeeding space. It will also be available online and accessible via a downloadable APP.

youtube distribution

YouTube podcast interviews will be used to give rich insight into each mother's experience. Current video Podcasts are achieving 20K + views on our dedicated YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/c/HoldingTime

These interviews will also be displayed alongside the portraits in the exhibition space

Breastfeeding Hub for parents and visitors

Breastfeeding Hub for parents and visitors

Creating a breastfeeding ‘hub’

A hub where breastfeeding mothers can collect to chat and exchange ideas whilst participating in the exhibition will be a crucial live element in the exhibition. visitors are invited to engage with and converse with the mothers each day the project is open to the public. The Hub will also be the location of workshops and talks.


Coventry has a fairly high take up rate of breastfeeding at 51% (Public Health England, 2018_2019_Q1_breastfeeding_Statistical_Release.xlsx) at 6-8 weeks. In the UK, mothers from disadvantaged backgrounds are much less likely to breastfeed than women that higher socioeconomic status, which increases inequalities.


In Brighton, where this work began, young women from disadvantaged backgrounds had breastfeeding rates of less than 29%, whereas richer areas the percentage of women breastfeeding to be at 80% [1].

Much funding for Health Visitor run baby groups and drop ins in most UK cities have been cut in the past two years due to budget constraints. This has lead to increasing social isolation of new mothers. There is a wide disparity between the emphasis on breastfeeding in culture and the support for mothers attempting to breastfeed for the first time.

Young mothers in particular may not have ever encountered another breastfeeding mother, given that the last generation was largely encouraged to bottle-feed. One of the greatest challenges new mothers face is overcoming the dominant negative attitude towards breastfeeding in public [2, 3].

Until cultural attitudes towards breastfeeding change, it is unlikely that this will be improved. Coventry is typical of many working class, post industrial cities in the UK and being from Coventry we understand fully the intensity of cultural stigmas around difference and change that this one of the legacies of communities feeling left behind.

For more info see: https://www.holdingtime.org/why

[1] https://www.jfhc.co.uk/Who_wants_to_eat_in_a_toilet_20947.aspx: “The prevalence of initiation of breast-feeding varies between neighbourhoods from 28% to 80.6%.”

[2]45% of mothers reported that they felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of other people, and this was most acute in public places (43%) http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB08694/Infant-Feeding-Survey-2010-Consolidated-Report.pdf

[3] https://www.jfhc.co.uk/Who_wants_to_eat_in_a_toilet_20947.aspx


The project will engage meet the following Coventry 2021 Step Changes:

2. Closing the gaps in participation and engagement:Opportunities for participation and creation


This is a participatory, site specific intervention in the city, created in partnership with the local NHS Trust, local breastfeeding providers, community groups and midwives.

3. Culture Building Bridges: Involve NEETs & BAME in audience & delivery

We will actively seek to recruit individuals from these two groups. breastfeeding mothers in either group can face social isolation and a lack of social networks.

4) Culture underpinning the health of the City: Increase in cultural commissions to help address mental health & obesity

Breastfeeding is proven to lessen the risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes in children. Breastfeeding initiation is significantly lower in the West Midlands compared to the England averages between 2010 and 2015

• Initiation rates between Local Authorities within West Midlands range from 48% to 77% out of all maternities during 2014/15. Key risks of lower breastfeeding uptake:

• Younger age of mother with those aged under 20 years the least likely to breastfeed.

• Mothers who are from a white ethnic background.

• Mothers who have never worked or employed in a routine or manual occupation (classified as lower socio-economic status).

• Younger age left full time education with mothers who left at or before 16 years least likely to breastfeed.

• Mothers in the most deprived quintile of society (classified as being in quintile 1 of the Index of Multiple Deprivation IMD calculation).

See https://meridian.wmahsn.org/subdomain/innovation-warehouse-stories/end/node/2984 for more info (source Public Health England)

Download a detailed budget here