The Calderdale Breastfeeding Peer Support Service currently has almost 50 volunteers who donate more than 150 hours a month to support new mums in Calderdale on their breastfeeding journeys. They can provide support in a number of ways, including home visits, support at Baby Café’s and breastfeeding groups, and can provide a seven day service through hospital visits and providing support by telephone.
We spent the day with the service to find out more!
Bridget Hall is the Calderdale Breastfeeding Peer Supporter Co-ordinator and knows the stats only too well – “up to 80% of mums begin breastfeeding”, she says, “so support within those first few weeks can be crucial”. However, women can access the support of the Breastfeeding Peer Supporters at any time during their breastfeeding journey. These volunteer Supporters provide help and advice on a number of questions and concerns, including hand expression and storage, positioning and attaching baby at the breast and mums returning to work. Breastfeeding Peer Supporters will also signpost women to further medical support if required.
So, taking a typical day, the first visit was to the Calderdale Baby Café, based at Halifax Dance Academy which was full to bursting with new mums, their new-born babies and a number of dads, grandmas, aunties and sisters providing support along the way.
The Baby Cafe offers specialist support to breastfeeding mums experiencing persistent and complex breastfeeding problems. Support is provided by experienced and trained health professionals including infant feeding advisors, midwives, health visitors and maternity support workers. The Baby Cafe also provides support with all aspects of breastfeeding and offers the opportunity to chat to other mums and Breastfeeding Peer Supporters.
Mums often signpost to this service themselves, but can also be referred after a telephone consultation with a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter.
The room had a fantastic bustling, yet relaxing, vibe and those attending were also able to make use of the children’s play area to entertain older siblings and self-weigh service on offer too.
The Breastfeeding Peer Supporters were kept incredibly busy, and were making their way around the room, knitted breasts in hand, speaking to mums about their experiences and signposting them to further support from a Health Visitor and Infant Feeding Advisor, which is also provided at the session. Some of the mums had been seen by the Breastfeeding Peer Supporters on the maternity wards of Calderdale Royal Hospital, and it’s great to see the Peer Supporters continuing to be part of their journey.
The Breastfeeding Group at Illingworth’s Children’s Centre was the next stop and had a noticeably different atmosphere, a social space where mums could engage with their peers, make new friends in their community and encourage their toddlers to play together.
A free baby massage class was in full swing and even though only one mum accessed the support of a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter in the short time Bridget was there, the discussions were all very affirming, if one woman walked through the door and found the support she needed on that day, whether that be advice with a specific breastfeeding concern or just a general chat with someone who could place themselves in her shoes, it was worthwhile.
Many of the breastfeeding peer supporters spoke of the same reasons for volunteering in this role; being able to give something back and share their knowledge and skills. However, it also seemed that many of the supporters had also found something in the service for themselves. Bridget explained that many of the Breastfeeding Peer Supporters go on to study and find careers born from their voluntary experiences. One Peer Supporter, Sarah Hanrahan had just begun a role as a Midwifery Assistant at Calderdale Royal Hospital, and enthused about how being a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter had given her the confidence to apply for the role.
Mums can self-refer to the service by contacting the team on 07920 466 660 or 030 0304 5076. Information on breastfeeding support can be found here.