Breastfeeding peer support is where women who have breastfed their own children are provided with specialised training to enable them to offer appropriate information and support to pregnant women and new mothers on how to breastfeed their babies.
This approach forms part of a range of initiatives to improve support for breastfeeding mothers and enables people with first-hand experience of breastfeeding to share their knowledge with new mums.
The aim of the seminar was to discuss the successes and challenges associated with sustaining effective breastfeeding peer support programmes and explore the way forward for peer support in Northern Ireland.
Janet Calvert, the PHA’s Regional Breastfeeding Lead, explained: “The importance of breastfeeding to the health of mothers and their babies is well recognised. Health benefits for children can include reduced risk of infections, childhood obesity, diabetes and sudden infant death. It is also a really satisfying feeling to be able to feed your own baby.
“Despite this, Northern Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the UK. A recent survey suggests that many women give up breastfeeding in the early weeks and this may be because they are experiencing some difficulties and are worried that their milk supply is low.
“There is a clear need to ensure that mothers have access to breastfeeding information and support and this is where voluntary breastfeeding peer support can make a real difference. This event has provided an opportunity for people to share their experiences and explore how we can further improve this important support system for expectant and new mothers.”
Further information on breastfeeding is available at www.breastfedbabies.org. The site also has details on the ‘Breastfeeding welcome here’ scheme, which is an initiative which aims to make it easier for mums to find places where they can breastfeed their baby when they are out and about.