Guest blog: Sian’s Breastfeeding Support Story
This week is National Breastfeeding Celebration Week, and we’re celebrating how everyone can support mothers to breastfeed, whenever and wherever they are. To showcase some of the great work going on around the country, we’re sharing guest blogs from people writing about their experiences of being supported to breastfeed and helping others to do the same. Today’s blog is written by Sian, who, having struggled with breastfeeding herself, is now a peer supporter helping others on their breastfeeding journey. Share your breastfeeding support stories using#celebratebreastfeeding on social media.
Casting my mind back to my first baby’s birth and the struggles we faced with feeding during those initial few days, it’s incredible to think that over three years later I’ve breastfed two children as well as become a breastfeeding peer supporter with The Breastfeeding Network. The support I received as a new mum changed our lives completely and I know that without it our journey wouldn’t have been the same.
18 months ago I began my peer supporter training. My eldest child had just turned two and my youngest was just nine weeks old. I spent six months attending the course before getting my certification, as well as completing a DBS check. I began volunteering at a breastfeeding support group at a local children’s centre and I’ve been helping there at least once a month ever since. Some weeks we see just one or two mums, some weeks we see over ten. We can never predict how busy a session will be and I have lost count of how many people I have helped now.
As a peer supporter we’re trained to listen, support and guide a mother to reach her own individual goals; be it to breastfeed for a day, a week, a month, a year, or more. Most of the mums I help have newborn babies, often just a few days old, and they tend to come to us for support with their positioning and attachment. It’s not just mums with newborns that we help though: we see babies and toddlers of all ages and help with things like how to express and store milk, queries about returning to work, and even how to end breastfeeding if a mum feels she and her baby are ready to stop. Sometimes we see mums who come back months later to let us know how they are getting on and to thank us for our help, which is so wonderful.
Once a month I also attend supervision sessions with my tutor, to enable me to keep up to date with current information and guidelines, discuss any difficulties I’ve encountered, organise fundraising activities and to catch up with the other peer supporters. Several of us trained together and then spread out over different children’s centres so that our area has lots of support available. Where I live, in north Hertfordshire, there is a breastfeeding group available every day on weekdays and there is also The National Breastfeeding Helpline for support when it’s not possible to get to a group.
Many of the supporters and peer supporters are women who also faced difficulties at one point or another on their breastfeeding journey, and by volunteering to help other mums it’s a way of being able to pay it forward. We know that getting the right support at the right time can make or break a mother’s decision to breastfeed and we understand how fragile mums can feel in those early days. We don’t get paid to do what we do; our reward is simply seeing a mother achieve whatever goals she has.
The support we give to these mums and their families can make all the difference to them and it’s always a great feeling to know that I’ve helped to change someone’s life in some small way. “As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person”.