This National Breastfeeding Week (running from Monday 27 June – Monday 3 July) Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) is celebrating the reopening of its face-to-face breastfeeding peer supporter community groups in Leicestershire, following the Covid-19 pandemic.
After two years of not being able to run in person, the first groups are beginning to open their doors to new mums and their babies, with more due to open gradually over the summer. The groups are run by breastfeeding peer supporters, who are local women that breastfed their own children and who are volunteering to help support other women in their breastfeeding journey, with the support of health professionals from LPT’s infant feeding service.
Bosom Babies, covering the Blaby area, Charnwood Bras, covering the Loughborough area, Magic Milk, covering the Ashby and Coalville areas, Mamas and Milk Matters, covering the Market Harborough area, Melton Breast Friends covering Melton Mowbray, Breastfeeding Support Rutland and Up Front, covering the Hinckley area, each provide advice and support on a variety of breastfeeding issues such as:
- advice on latching
- teaching mums different positions to feed in
- safe spaces for mums to talk about their concerns
- winding advice
- ways to help mothers feel more comfortable when feeding
- solutions to nipple pain
- and much more.
Claire Hubbard is the infant feeding clinical lead at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust and is the lead coordinator of the breastfeeding peer support groups. She said: “We are so excited to be reopening and helping our mums on their breastfeeding journey in person.
“Many of our peer supporters and groups were on hand during Covid-19, holding virtual sessions over Zoom and taking phone calls and texts from mums. I’d like to thank them for their fabulous work and continuing to be there for Leicestershire mothers. Now, they are all looking forward to getting back to working in their local communities, speaking to mums face-to-face and watching new mums making connections and get support from others who are in a similar positions.”
Breastfeeding has many benefits for mothers and babies in the short and longer term, though it isn’t always straight forward or possible for every mother.
Claire added: “Breastfeeding is a skill that you and your baby need to learn together. It can take you both a while to get the hang of it or there may be challenges along the way. That is why we are here to help you.
“If you can, any amount of breastfeeding is positive and the longer you are able to breastfeed your baby for, the greater the benefits are. These include passing on antibodies to protect your baby from infections, reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), as well as supporting the bond between you and your baby. It also has benefits for mums too: breastfeeding helps to lower your risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer and osteoporosis. What’s more it is free to do and can help mums to lose some of their baby weight, as their fat stores are used to make their milk.”
The first group to reopen
The first breastfeeding peer support group to open up in Leicestershire was Magic Milk, in Ashby, which held its first session back on Monday 20 June between 1-2.30pm, at The Heritage Centre, St. Helen’s Church.
First-time mum, Eleanor Peacock, from Ashby de la Zouch, attended the session with her two-month-old son, James. She said: “I heard about the group from my health visitor. I was having trouble breastfeeding, as James has posterior tongue-tie and his latch isn’t reliable.
“I went for the first time not knowing what to expect and it was really good; everyone was supportive, it was very hands on and it was so reassuring to hear from others who have gone through similar things. Just hearing that what you’re feeling or going through is normal was a relief and it helps to know I’m not alone. Also, it was good to understand where I can go if I need help.
“I now have a plan of what to do for the next steps in our feeding journey. I was given really useful advice on how to help James latch and different feeding positions to hold him in. Claire was there and she didn’t let me go until I felt comfortable. If anyone needs some support, even if you don’t feel like your problem is a big one, I’d still recommend they go. Don’t soldier on silently.”
One of the breastfeeding peer supporters at the Magic Milk group, Louise Bailey, has three children aged five, two and nine months. She did her training to become a supporter three years ago.
She said: “The first session back went really well. It is so lovely to see mums making connections and friendships that are within their community, at what can feel like a very lonely time. We had some first-time mums attend and also mums coming back with their new second or third babies. We were able to speak to everyone who needed support and lots of people said they’d come again.
“I started going to the group myself when I’d had my first baby. It had been so helpful for me and I wanted to give something back and help other mums who were going through similar experiences.
“The training was really good. It was helpful to find out more about the technical knowledge around breastfeeding, as it is different with each baby – each time you have different issues.”
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust is always interested in hearing from mums who would like to volunteer to become a breastfeeding peer supporters. In particular, the Trust is looking to recruit mothers who are under 25 and mothers from all ethnicities. If you are interested please contact Claire.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Health for Under 5s website to find out more.
To find out more about breastfeeding, people can consult the NHS website or speak to their midwives, health visitor or local breastfeeding peer support group.
A list of the peer supporter groups can be found on the Health For Under 5s website. Each of the breastfeeding groups can also be found on Facebook. Please note, the groups will be opening in a phased way over the summer, therefore some will only be offering online support over the next few weeks. In order to ensure the groups operate within safe numbers and to reduce the risk of infection spread, pre-booking is required. This can be done via the Facebook groups or by using the contact details on the Health For Under 5s website.
The Health For Under 5s website also has a range of helpful breastfeeding articles, including on following topics:
- All about breastfeeding
- Overcoming common challenges with breastfeeding
- How to help your baby latch on for breastfeeding
- A step by step guide to breastfeeding
- Mixed feeding
Mothers living in Leicester can also access free support from Mammas, which offers free antenatal breastfeeding workshops in the city (contact 07580159278 for more information) and has a breastfeeding support helpline: 07794667791, as well as lots of other services for mothers and babies.
Mammas also runs four free weekly baby cafes in the city, with breastfeeding peer supporters, at:
- Eyres Monsell Children, Young People and Family Centre, Hillsborough Road, LE2 9PT, Fridays from 11am-12.30pm
- Thurnby Lodge Children, Young People and Family Centre, Dudley Avenue. LE5 2EG, Mondays from 1pm- 2.30pm
- New Parks Children, Young People and Family Centre, Pindar Road, LE3 9RN, Tuesdays from 10.30am – noon.
- Beaumont Leys Children, Young People and Family Centre, 20 Home Farm Cl, LE4 0RW, Fridays from 1pm – 2.30pm.
Find out more: www.mammas.org.uk/breastfeeding-support.html
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust also offer a confidential text messaging mental health support service, called Mums Mind, for new and expectant mums. The dedicated text line – 07507 330 026 – provides expert advice and information to support mothers who struggle with mental health issues during pregnancy and baby’s first year. It is open between 9am and 4pm on weekdays for mums and their families.