SEHSCT Welcome Newly Trained Volunteer Breastfeeding Peer Supporters

02/04/2019

The benefits of breastfeeding for women, children and society as a whole are well documented.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed until six months of age, with breastfeeding continuing alongside the introduction of solid foods until at least two years of age. 

This offers optimum health advantages for both mother and baby.

Breastfeeding rates in the UK are some of the lowest in the world with eight out of 10 women stopping breastfeeding before they want to. Rates in Northern Ireland (46.1% at discharge) are the lowest in the UK.

Women learn how to breastfeed by watching other women feed their babies in a community setting; it should be normal and a part of daily life. This lack of a breastfeeding culture is one reason why breastfeeding rates in the UK and in particular, Northern Ireland, are so low.   Peer breastfeeding programs can play a crucial role in an attempt to improve this.

Breastfeeding peer support is mother to mother support given by a woman who has breastfed her own children and who, with specialised training, provides on-going information and support to mothers following discharge home from hospital. Peer supporters are also able to put mothers in touch with health professionals for further support and advice.

Breastfeeding peer support aims to fill a gap and is recommended by the World Health Organization (pdf) and forms part of UK NICE guidance on maternal and child nutrition and on routine postnatal care. The Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative standards require that additional support such as peer support is provided and that services work together to ensure that mothers can get additional help as needed.

The Health Development Department within the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust are delighted to have trained their first cohort of Volunteer Breastfeeding Peer Supporters. The training provided was a pilot for the Public Health Agency based on the Solihull Approach.

The new Service, which will commence early May, is called BFF: BreastFeeding Friends and will offer telephone and text support as well as additional support at local Breastfeeding Support Groups.

If you are interested in becoming a Breast Feeding Peer Supporter within the South Eastern Trust area please contact Jacqui Henning at Jacqui.Henning@setrust.hscni.net