Have you been bitten by the breastfeeding support bug yet? I know when I had my first daughter and the initial “what the hell am I actually doing” phase of motherhood died down, I started to feel really passionately about breastfeeding. The focus eventually switched from me to others and I wanted to help other families to achieve their goals too. Why did I want to do more? Why do I *still* want to do more? I wasn’t let down particularly badly, although I knew many that were. I faced some challenges with HCPs (Health Care Professionals), but none that weren’t overcome. I did actually see other mummies around me succeed at breastfeeding, but I saw more that didn’t, and were left with emotional scars.
Pay it forward
I actually think what really inspired me to do more, to “pay it forward” if you like, was the breastfeeding support I found in breastfeeding peer supporters and just how much they impacted on my new life as a mother. These people had walked in my shoes, knew how I felt, turned up week after week, often unpaid and occasionally unappreciated but always for the LOVE of making breastfeeding work. And they really do make it work for so many families. I feel inspired by those people. I owe a great deal of my journey to those wonderful, selfless people.
My first ever peer support led group was when my daughter for 4 months old. FOUR months. How I had survived through pregnancy and four months of breastfeeding up until that point without their help I will honestly never know. I turned up and some people were wearing slings, somebody *shock horror* was breastfeeding a four year old, a few were bed sharing. There were healthy snacks and interesting books on a table and in the middle of this gathering, there was a leader, a shining light and voice of compassion, knowledge and kindness. Someone who would become inspirational to me in so many ways. Someone who sent me a beautifully supportive handwritten letter after my initial visit. She made me feel listened to, supported and understood. I never forgot her kindness.
Now, I came initially to meet other mummies that hadn’t planned to “move on” after 6 months. Cripes! I couldn’t “move” my daughter from spending more than an hour and a half away from my breasts at that point, so I figured I’d better find some like minded folk who were experiencing the same. What I actually found though was an ocean of support and encouragement and the incredible gift of mother-to-mother peer support. I knew that if I wanted to do more, I could invest some time and hopefully become more like that person I so admired and maybe bring my own experience to the table. Could you be that person too? Maybe. Maybe right now your support starts with your neighbour, your old school friend or that nursing mother looking lost and tired on a park bench. And I want to emphasise that this is so important and valuable too. I started my journey a few months ago, and I’m absolutely loving it. And today, I am asking you to “pay it forward” and help that mother you once were and possibly still are. There are so many ways to become a supportive voice – if peer support is an avenue you wish to pursue, look below at the different options. Nothing is more powerful in achieving your breastfeeding goals than mother-to-mother support.
National Childbirth Trust (NCT)
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM)
The Breastfeeding Network
La Leche League (LLL)
Or contact your local Children’s Centre or NHS trust to see if there is funding for breastfeeding peer supporter training.
Written by Olivia Betts