I was born and raised in England and came to New Zealand in 2009. I have two boys, aged around 13 years and 23 years, and a gorgeous granddaughter 🙂
While in England I studied part time to gain a Diploma in Breastfeeding Counselling with NCT and the University of Bedfordshire. This qualified me to work as a counsellor with breastfeeding and pregnant women, to support women during their breastfeeding journey and provide antenatal breastfeeding classes for women and their partners. The term Breastfeeding Counsellor is used by many people, however it is not a Diploma qualification in NZ and other countries, so if you are unsure what someone’s “title” means, just ask – they shouldn’t mind you asking about their qualification or experience 🙂
When I came to New Zealand I really wanted to continue doing this type of work but it took a while to work out what might be useful for people. Having trained breastfeeding peer supporters in Dunedin and Oamaru, I decided to set up a small charity in South Dunedin called The Breast Room.
Two things drove this decision: firstly I wanted to provide somewhere for women and their families to get support with feeding their baby – mainly focussed on breastfeeding, but also to help women with whatever decisions they ended up making with regard to feeding. I felt there was a need for somewhere totally open to all forms of feeding – breastfeeding, formula feeding, a bit of both, expressed milk, donor milk… I also wanted to provide emotional support for these women and their families, somewhere safe to come and talk, one-to-one, where they could be listened to, respected and not judged. That is The Breast Room.
Secondly, the women who had trained as Peer Supporters wanted a way of being involved with women and their families, they wanted somewhere to go so they could help. Not all the Peer Supporters volunteer at The Breast Room. It’s not the right place for all of them, but some of them do help out there – it works well.
As part of the Otago Breastfeeding Network, I created the outline and content for monthly antenatal breastfeeding classes for pregnant women and their partners. I have recently decided that I just don’t have time to facilitate these classes myself anymore, so have handed them to over to one of the Breastfeeding Peer Supporters (Tess). I will still be involved in the background and supporting Tess wherever she needs me. Every mother who attends the class is automatically linked up with a Peer Supporter. Rather than wait for a new mother to find she needs help and then have to decide who to call, we provide a free service where the Peer Supporter will make contact to introduce themselves before the baby is born. We hope that by already having “broken the ice” it will be easier for mothers to make contact if things get a bit tricky or they have any questions. Obviously mothers have their midwife and others to support them; our service complements what is there from other health professionals, and provides another avenue of support and help for parents. We should all be working together to provide the right help for each mother, just as she needs it 🙂 This is my “dream”, I am lucky to be able to do what I do.
If you would like to learn how to be a breastfeeding peer supporter, get in touch!