Mothers supporting Mothers - breastfeeding peer support

Where to start, where to begin!

Breastfeeding. It’s important to me. I didn’t quite realise how important until I became a mother and experienced the highs and lows that accompany the honing of any new skill. Maybe it’s because I’ve always been drawn to human biology – which undoubtedly led me to study and work within nutrition. But what I’ve learnt over the years is that breastfeeding is more than just biology, more than just nutrition – it’s about attachment, security, nurturing, comfort and so much more. But it requires effort, perseverance and support from those around us in order to achieve it.

For 2 days last week I had had the privilege of attending the first Baby Wisdom breastfeeding peer support training course entitled: Starting the Conversation - Becoming a mother to mother Supporter. Surrounded by other women, passionate about giving mothers the support they need to navigate their own breastfeeding journey.

I come into contact with mothers on a daily basis through Happy Tums. This is often when their babies are 3-6 months old and by 6 months only 1% of Mums are breastfeeding. To me, as a nutritionist and mother, that’s a depressing statistic. But there’s no blame to be laid at this or any other point (other than at the door of the institutions that are meant to fund the support to these women) and blame never solves anything anyway. Every mother should have a choice as to how they feed their baby but also every mother should be supported to allow an informed and true choice. It’s not a ‘choice’ if a mother ends breastfeeding because she was in pain or mistakenly thought her baby should have been feeding on a 4-hour schedule after the first week. Did you know that if all babies were breastfed for 3 months, the reduction in the incidence of gastroenteritis alone would save the NHS in England £50 million per year!* Move over BREXIT!

My own personal experience taught me just how crucial peer support is to a mother and baby who are establishing a breastfeeding relationship. Especially when there is an increasing absence of trained professionals within the NHS system. Sometimes it doesn’t go to plan, the experience is different to what you anticipated and sometimes there are bumps along the way. But with trained, experienced and accessible peer support these hurdles can often be overcome, worked around or solved by sign-posting to other support services. Merely listening and showing empathy to that new mother is often all they need to give strength to continue another day, week, month of breastfeeding.**

And this is why the Baby Wisdom training course is so needed and so valuable. And not necessarily just for women who want to volunteer as breast feeding peer supporters. But anyone who is in contact with women – either before or after birth. The two days were just fascinating, learning not only about the role of a peer supporter but also learning about myself and my own breastfeeding experience. Because with anything in life we are shaped by our experiences. But others should not be shaped by them. My beliefs are not relevant to the conversation with that mother in front of me. But the empathy and support I can give her, which enables her to find her way, is.

The course is called ‘Starting the Conversation’ and that’s exactly how the 2 days felt – a conversation. It was relaxed, fun, uplifting, at times emotional, but above all inspiring. Katie and Anne are so extremely knowledgeable and experienced but their approach to training is how they approach breastfeeding support – with compassion, patience and understanding. And that is a winning combination!

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#breastfeeding #nutrition #infantfeeding #peersupport #breastfeedingsupport #tonguetie #mastitis #naturaltermbreastfeeding