‘It’s the most natural thing in the world’ say breastfeeding support team

On National Breastfeeding Week we are showcasing the very special talents of a team who are dedicated to supporting mums in the very first days of their breastfeeding journey.

Sarah Charnock and Loreto Iglesias-Rubianes provide peer support as part of Lancashire County Council’s Families and Babies service (FAB). The team giving guidance and advice to new mums in the form of home visits, telephone support, text messages and video calls.

“It’s the most natural thing in the world, but it doesn’t always happen as easily as what families expect,” Sarah, who leads the FAB team. “It’s like learning to walk, babies don’t just get up and walk, it takes a little bit of practice.

“A lot of the support is around position attachment and expression, things like that, but then some of it is just that emotional support for families as well, particularly in the early days. We give a lot of reassurance as to what’s normal, and what’s not, what to expect.

“We provide quite intense support for the first six weeks, but we can continue beyond that, just tailored to what the mums’ needs are really.”

Loreto, a qualified engineer, has been a FAB volunteer at the Trust for 12 years, first as a volunteer and more recently as part of the FAB team, and admits that she had her own personal experiences which led to her wanting to help others.

Loreto said: “When I had my first child I really struggled with breastfeeding. I was thinking this is the most natural thing and what is going on here? Why is it so painful? Why am I struggling? Why is my baby not behaving as I was expecting it to? I saw such a big gap in the support needed, that I just became really into it. I trained us a FAB volunteer.

“This work for me is my hobby and my passion, and I absolutely love it.

“When you are with a mum that the nipples are completely sore and cracked, they are emotional. Sometimes I have the mother, the baby and the father, everybody crying and it is really hard. It is like an emotional roller coaster, but when you manage to get them to the other side and you see that things have finally clicked, the reward for me is that this is the best job ever.”

The FAB is now looking to extend their network of volunteers to help other new mums with breastfeeding. The volunteers will receive full training and can offer support with a range of flexible options, including shifts on the maternity ward, running a breastfeeding group, giving advice on the helpline or even carrying a small caseload.

“Some of our volunteers offer support to mums in a way that is simply mum-to-mum, giving new mums a call once a week just to see how they’re getting on with the feeding?” Sarah said.

“This is such rewarding work. When you see the mum reach her goals with whatever she’s wanted to do, whether it was exclusively breastfeeding, partially breastfeeding. For some mums it just expressing, if she reaches that goal and you’re seeing how happy she is and how happy baby is, it’s lovely.”

If you are interested in becoming a Families and Babies volunteer please contact sarah.valentine@familiesandbabies.org.uk for more information.

Any new mums needing support with breastfeeding can contact the FAB helpline on 01254 772929. The helpline is available 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week. More information can be found on the website www.familiesandbabies.org.uk

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