The recent Unicef report showed what I think most of us know – basically that breastfeeding is the best thing for baby and mum (less illnesses) and that:

  • increased illnesses put more pressure on the NHS funds
  • quality research into the benefits of breastfeeding is hampered by lack of money in the NHS
  • effective services to increase and sustain breastfeeding is likely to provide a return within a few years, possibly one year

For a couple of months I have been volunteering at Kingsmill Hospital in my capacity as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter through Surestart. Details of the programme here.

Firstly I have to emphasis how much I get from this. I totally love newborns and I get to see lots who are only a day or so old! They are like little feral creatures all screwed up, a little bit furry and not quite sure about the world they have entered into.

Surestart (Ashfield) have implemented a 72 hour call out service whereby the Peer Supporters call breastfeeding mums, who have consented to have their details taken, to see how they are getting along 72 hours after a baby’s birth – the time when most women give up breastfeeding. This usually coincides with the time when baby is getting hungry and mum’s milk is just coming in. All breastfeeding mums will recognise this time when you are tired, sore and vulnerable and baby is very hungry!

Up until recently it was the midwives or ward staff who would take the details from the mums, and these were passed on to Surestart to make the calls at the next breastfeeding support meeting. Several months ago the decision was made to invite Peer Supporters to take over this job. This, in my opinion, is a wonderful step forwards. Not only does it free up the ward staff but it also gives mums a great opportunity to meet another mum who has breastfed her baby and knows exactly how she feels.

So far the service has been a great success with the consents going from averaging 5 a week to 35! A seven fold increase! The service is particularly important for first time breastfeeding mums, although some mums who have already fed one baby successfully find the call useful as, let’s face it, you forget!

As well as taking the details I have been lucky enough to get a chance to see how breastfeeding is going and offer advice and support at the same time. I have realised it is really little things that can make a massive difference. In just the couple of times I have been on the ward so far there are the same themes that arise..

“My baby isn’t feeding much..” …. “Yesterday she fed loads but today it has been more sporadic”…

Just hearing someone say “that’s normal” makes such a difference to new parents who are searching for the answer. All babies are different and some don’t feed massively in the first 24 hours and it all depends on what pain relief the mother had in labour. Breastfed babies also don’t always fall into a natural pattern of feeding and sleeping every four hours either. I had one baby who was a dream sleeper/feeder and one that was the complete opposite catnapping and nibbling!

I think in some ways (and my completely non medical opinion!) the ward put a lot of pressure on new mums to feed a new baby in a pattern. One mum was expressing when the baby was one day old (surely that is just colostrum and you aren’t going to get much?) as baby wasn’t feeding “enough”. I guess whatever helps build up your milk supply is a good thing for whenever baby does get hungry though.

What are your opinions on the Unicef report? Do you have any tips to encourage breastfeeding for new mums? Would love to hear your thoughts..

I have lots of other breastfeeding posts here..

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5 Responses to Breastfeeding: do we get the right support?

  1. […] haven’t been doing much of the breastfeeding support volunteering at the hospital due to confusion with the week’s when I go and twice I went and […]

  2. […] about two or three months old. I actually thought about getting involved as an extension from the volunteering I do at the hospital whereby I get consents to phone breastfeeding mothers when their baby is about […]

  3. Lisa | Mama.ie says:

    Great post. I found the UNICEF report fascinating. I felt it really highlighted that women who want to breastfeed just aren’t getting the help they need to make that happen. When I saw that 90% of the women who quit didn’t want to, I thought that that is where women are clearly being let down by the medical professionals who are supposed to help them. In fact, it made me decide that we are being lied to when we are told breastfeeding is a real choice: http://mama.ie/breastfeeding-is-not-a-choice/

  4. Anna C says:

    Good post and I was very interested to hear about the work you’re doing, how did you first get involved?

    I feel there needs to be a more balanced approach to breastfeeding in general. It is pushed on new mothers a lot but when there is a problem there is very little help. I also feel we need to scrap the myths that it is the easy option and helps you to get your pre pregnancy body back. Not to mention the guilt! I ebf for six months and finally stopped at nine months, yet I still feel guilty about stopping. Which is mad!!

    • Louise says:

      Agree with all you say here, and with you about the guilt – totally! It is madness 🙂 I got involved through Surestart. They ran a course for peer supporters to support and encourage breastfeeding rates. Hopefully it is helping mums make informed choices. Thanks for your comment. x

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