NHS Borders has taken the innovative step of recruiting seven women volunteers who will offer peer support to women who are breastfeeding.
This help will complement the professional advice and support that all new mothers are offered by their midwives and health visitors.
The volunteer peer support project is being launched during national Breast-feeding Awareness Week (24th – 30th June) at the Heart of Hawick on Thursday 28 June, from 10.00 – 11.30 am.
Calum Campbell Chief Executive of NHS Borders will be presenting awards to the volunteer peer supporters on the completion of their training.
Dr Eric Baijal, Joint Director of Public Health for Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders will talk about the importance of breastfeeding and highlighting what the health service and the local authority can do to support mothers and encourage breastfeeding.
With the support of the NHS Borders’ Healthy Living Network, the volunteer peer supporters have completed a training programme to address some of the problems and concerns that new mothers say make breast-feeding more difficult for them.
Some of the difficulties mentioned are:
Feeling uneasy and embarrassed about breastfeeding in public places.
Being anxious or shy about feeding in front of other people.
Lack of support from their partner meaning women are less confident about breastfeeding.
Many women don’t have access to advice and support from their family or friends because breast-feeding is less common than it once was.
The newly-trained volunteers are now clear about their role and are enthusiastic about what they can offer and have the following to say:
“Although breastfeeding your baby is a beautiful natural thing it can sometimes be hard. That’s when you need the support of someone who has been there. That’s why I wanted to become a peer supporter.
“There are so many good reasons to breastfeed your baby, and we want to help women identify their options, not to tell them what they should be doing. We want to help women to help themselves, not take control or responsibility for them.”
Dr Eric Baijal, Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council, added his support: “Breastfeeding is key to better health in babies and has additional health benefits for mothers. We are very keen in Scottish Borders to encourage breastfeeding. We want to foster a culture where this is the natural and preferred way for mothers to feed babies where possible. Mothers often need encouragement, support and advice and the peer support volunteers will be a crucial addition to the existing support and advice already available to mothers locally.“
Councillor Catriona Bhatia, Executive Member for Health Service, Scottish Borders Council, added: “Breast feeding is best for both baby and mother, and is the natural and convenient way to ensure that children get the healthiest start to their lives. We need a cultural shift in the Borders and Scotland to make breast feeding the unquestionable norm for all mothers. The peer support approach is important as the immediate post natal period can be emotional and stressful, and breastfeeding is not always easy to master, so to have extra encouragement for mums, babies and the wider family is vital.”
Throughout Breast-feeding Awareness Week, breast-feeding support groups are planning a range of activities in local health centres to encourage mothers to breast feed their babies and to make use of local support groups and the information and advice that is on offer. There will also be displays and information available in selected shops and supermarkets in Hawick over the course of the week and publicity in the national media.