Today I went to Surestart and had some training on doing home visits after the birth of a new baby. This is where you, as a volunteer, go to someone’s house who has consented to the visit and basically tell them about the services Surestart offers such as baby massage, tummy time, breast feeding support group and other baby groups. At the moment this is a job carried out by Surestart staff, but (I think) possibly due to the work and time pressures on Surestart centres, they are utilising volunteers for such tasks. It also could be argued that some people may be suspicious of the authorities (and class Surestart as one) whereas a volunteer is “neutral”. Who knows! Anyway this visit is usually when the baby is 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 72 hours old (which is commonly the time when mums give up breastfeeding – tired, emotional, baby very hungry and milk just arriving).
Personally I would have loved to have had a breastfeeding peer supporter come and see me at home when my firstborn was around 72 hours old. I can safely say I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and although my midwife was very patient and helpful, she no doubt had a list of calls to make that day and not enough time to spend with every new mum struggling. This is unfortunate but it is the way things and articles like this make depressing reading. It also isn’t likely to happen with this home visiting as once the baby is two months old the mother will be pretty settled with the way she is feeding her baby.
Anyway, I digress! The course was mainly covering guidelines for undertaking home visits and obviously the importance of not putting yourself at risk when on a visit.
We talked at length about the potentially dangerous situations you can find yourself in and ensuring your safety. It was quite gritty stuff – drink, drugs, domestic violence for example. I’m not sure how I would react to someone with a knife threatening their partner, a child or me. These situations are thankfully rare but no doubt happen. It was food for thought – even thinking what to take in your bag had to be considered. Kids (even stranger’s children) are always drawn to a new bag and think nothing of emptying out the contents!
One interesting tip was if you are driving to park your car in the direction you want to leave, ie not facing the end of a cul-de-sac, basically in case you have to make a quick escape! I love this and will bear it in mind every time I park up somewhere I think. Also sit as near to the door as you can, or alternatively facing the door so there are no surprises. We discussed lots more common sense practicalities such as ensuing you have a fully charged mobile phone with you and that someone know where you are and when you will be back. I was actually quite surprised by how little information about the families the Surestart staff have before they go on a visit.
Anyway, I am going to have a think about if I would like to do some home visits for Surestart. To start off with you go with a member of staff so safety in numbers! You never know in the future there may be an opening for peer supporters to go and assist new mums that want the help. I think it is vital that new mum’s who can, and who want to, breastfeed, get as much breastfeeding support as possible. It is really sad that despite all the recent evidence, the government is cutting back on maternity services and throwing money out of the window (or in the direction of the infant formula companies who are clearly benefiting from this!).
What do you think?