Thursday, 22 March 2018

Why I'm Training As A Breastfeeding Peer Supporter

Last week I did something exciting - I began training to become a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter! It's something I've wanted to do for years but there hasn't been any local training I could get to, so I'm thrilled to finally get started.

But why do I want to do this training? It doesn't lead to a paid role, and I don't even know if it'll be relevant to any future career I have. (That's a whole other blog post - what shall I do when I grow up?!)

So why give up my Wednesday mornings for the next ten weeks?

Is it because I think every mother should breastfeed? Because I want to pressure new mums into breastfeeding their babies? Because I think I know best and others should do things how I do them?

Nope. It's because I think all mums should have a choice on how they feed their baby.

For a long time, formula feeding has been held up as the prime example of giving mothers choice. And yes, it is an option, and one which will work for some families. But you can only call it a choice if the mother feels that all other options are wholly available to her.

80% of mothers who stop breastfeeding in the first six weeks do so before they wanted to. Does that sound like choice to you? In some cases there will have been insurmountable health problems that led to the end of breastfeeding, but in many other cases it will be down to a lack of support and information to enable the mother to continue.

I don't know how it feels to stop before I'm ready, but I do know how it feels to come close. To feel like it's never going to get better and it's all too much. The first eight weeks of my daughter's life were possibly the hardest I've ever experienced as I grappled with a baby who would refuse to latch, couldn't maintain a latch once I'd persuaded her to and threw up any milk I managed to get into her. It was hard, it was miserable and I wish I'd had more support.

With our NHS increasingly stretched it's hit and miss whether a new mum will get all the breastfeeding support they need through a professional. Instead, an army of volunteers are trying to plug the gap, in the form of peer supporters and breastfeeding counsellors. These volunteers are helping mums with all kinds of challenges to achieve their goals. And I want to be part of that army.

Having breastfed two children for a combined six years, I know a fair bit about breastfeeding. But I don't know everything. I've never fed multiples, I've never had to deal with returning to work, I haven't encountered complications like CMPA or low milk supply. I know I still have a lot to learn and I'm keen to learn it so I can help women in many different situations.

So that's why I'm training as a breastfeeding peer supporter. Not to pressure, but to enable. To learn more so I can better understand the unique situation each mother has. And hopefully to help mums reach their own breastfeeding goals.

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