Supporting my Peers

I recently trained as a breastfeeding peer supporter.  When I first applied to do the role, I had a different idea of what it would entail.  I thought it would mean helping out at a breastfeeding support group but perhaps not much more.  It does involve doing this, but whilst I was training however, our local Sure Start managed to set up a new support regime for new mums and this is taken care of by the peer supporters.

Basically it means that we call new mums who are breastfeeding, within 72 hours of them coming home from hospital (or within 72 hours of birth if baby was born at home). The reasoning for this is that in this region we have some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the UK.  Research shows that for those who begin breastfeeding, the first week is difficult, and we lose many breastfeeders in this time.  So we hope that by making contact within this critical period, and offering a listening ear and support where needed, we can help boost these figures and help people carry on breastfeeding.  In theory this works well, but over the last couple of weeks, the value of this support has really hit me.

Some of the women I’ve spoken to have been very happy with their breastfeeding, experiencing no problems and thoroughly enjoying it.  It’s been lovely to chat to them and hear the joy it is bringing them.  Some of them have thanked me for calling to check on them.  It gives me a nice feeling.  I hope the other peer supporters involved in this initiative are getting a similar feeling from it.

Of course, this isn’t the whole story.  Whilst it’s great to hear how new mums are off and running with breastfeeding, we’re there to support the ones who haven’t had this gret start and who are struggling.  We’re ttrying to offer support so that they don’t choose to give up.  when I was training, and we were told the stats, I think it was easy to assume that women were giving up because it was too hard, or for a number of reasons, but that they were taking the easy option.  I’ve spoken to a number of women now who have not had this happy, ewasy breastfeeding journey and the one thing that has struck me has been how desperate they are to contuinue breastfeeding, and how they just need someone to be there and offer support.  Someone to tell them they are doing a good job.  Someone to say it’s OK to find it hard, to think that it’s too difficult, but who will help when it’s hard beyond belief.  I’ve spoken to some amazing women.  I can’t tell you their stories, but I have felt humbled by how much strength they have shown in their determination to give their new children the best they can.

Being able to offer a few words of support, a shoulder to cry on, practical support like arranging a visit from a Breastfeeding Champion all make me feel like I am making a difference, an importance difference.

I think I’m going to like this new role.

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