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Help for breast-feeding mums in Dereham

PUBLISHED: 18:37 10 October 2008 | UPDATED: 14:46 07 July 2010

Kathryn Cross

It looks like the most natural thing in the world, but every year thousands of new mothers give up breastfeeding their baby because they find it too difficult.

It looks like the most natural thing in the world, but every year thousands of new mothers give up breastfeeding their baby because they find it too difficult.

Sore nipples, concerns about producing enough milk and time restraints are just a few reasons many mums end up turning to the bottle and substituting their own milk for formula.

But now a new group of women in Dereham are preparing to give up their own time to help those mothers overcome the difficulties by volunteering as breastfeeding helpers.

The 12 mums, most of whom had their own problems at some point with breastfeeding, have trained with the Breastfeeding Network and are now fully qualified to work alongside midwives, health visitors and other health professionals to offer a unique form of support and advice.

As they received their certificates this morning from tutor Jan Edye after completing a 12-week Open College Network accredited course the women said how they were looking forward to getting out and helping new mums.

Mrs Edye said: “There was a need identified in the area for more help for mums to begin breastfeeding and then to carry on. Figures consistently show that more mums say they want to do it but then the actual drop off is huge in the first two weeks of their baby's life.

“These women here are all local mums with experience of having breastfed, and some are still feeding, but it is not about what happened to them, it is learning about evidence-based work from research using techniques to help women to make it a more positive experience. These women know how to breast-feed their own child but it is not as easy to help other women who are having problems. They have learned how to make suggestions to make it easier.”

The Children's Centre in Dereham, where the classes were held, funded the course and is supported by the Peddars Way midwifery team.

Community midwife Fiona Dallimore said midwives and health visitors did not have the time they would like to dedicate to helping mothers with breast-feeding techniques. “These ladies will be like having a right hand man,” she said. “The time we would like to give to new mums is not a luxury we have so if they can come to postnatal and breast-feeding clinics with us then they can take the time to talk to people.”

Some of the helpers are going to take further training to become a supporter who can work independently, visiting mums in their homes, running clinics and taking calls on the Supporterline (BfN's telephone helpline) and email support.

Natasha Easter is hoping to be one of them. She joined the course because she struggled to breastfeed her first child Alfie.

“I just did not find it natural,” she said. “I had trouble latching him on and I was nervous that I was not holding him right but the support was not there to help me. People around me tried to help but they all had different views and I was even told to give up and give him a bottle. But I really wanted to do it and I persevered for three and a half months until I had really had enough.”

While she had no problems with her daughter Connie, 10 months, she decided to join the breastfeeding helper classes and give the support to other mums that she would have liked first time round.

“I have friends who felt they did not get enough help from the midwives and would have liked somebody to spend a bit of time with them,” she said. “I saw a woman yesterday who was so determined to breastfeed that she felt giving her baby a bottle was giving poison but she was nearly in tears because it was not going well. I so wanted to help and I spent about an hour with her. I know I can't solve her problems but I was able to give her information, help and support and I think she went away feeling more positive. It is not about making people feel guilty if they want to give up breastfeeding but to help those who really want to do it because it can be a wonderful experience. There are so many benefits to the baby and the mother.”

The course has even changed Natasha's thoughts about her own career. She currently works in a bank but she is looking into auxiliary nursing as another option.

“I have learned so much from how to teach different feeding techniques to what is actually in breast milk. But our approach is very much hands off and guiding. I am looking forward to helping as many mums as I can.”

BfN Supporterline is manned 9.30am to 9.30pm every day on 0844 412 4664.

For more information visit the website www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk

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