To mark National Breastfeeding Awareness Week (21-27 June 2010), ‘Healthy Steps for Life’ in partnership with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) have hosted an event to celebrate community-based breastfeeding support services in the Southern area.
‘Healthy Steps for Life’ is a three-year programme promoting healthy lifestyles in early years (0-5 years) and supporting breastfeeding in local communities is a key theme of the initiative. The Programme has been developed by the Southern Investing for Health Partnership (a partnership supported by the Public Health Agency) and has taken forward this work in conjunction with the SHSCT.
Breastfeeding rates have continued to rise in the Southern area from 26% in 1995 to 39% in 2008. Breastfeeding rates are slightly higher in the Banbridge and Dungannon district council areas at 44% and 41% respectively.
During the event, 15 newly trained Peer Supporters from the Armagh, Dungannon, South Tyrone, Newry and Mourne, South Down and South Armagh areas were presented with certificates, having recently completed the Breastfeeding Peer Support Training Programme developed by ‘Healthy Steps for Life’.
Breastfeeding peer support is mother-to-mother support given by women who have breastfed their own children and who, with specialised training, support other women wishing to breastfeed. This voluntary service is intended to support and complement the work of current services provided by the SHSCT.
Attending the celebration event were breastfeeding mums, breastfeeding peer supporters, breastfeeding counsellors from ‘Uplift’ (a voluntary organisation which provides a telephone helpline service), as well as community midwives and health visitors from the SHSCT.
Orlaith Moley, Project Manager with the Public Health Agency explains: “Breastfeeding research has highlighted the importance of new mums having access to good support and information in the early stages after birth to help build their confidence and overcome any problems they may have. There are now 26 trained Peer Supporters in the Southern area who have the knowledge and skills necessary to help mothers’ breastfeed successfully as well as giving them the confidence to promote breastfeeding in their own community.”
Speaking at the event, Vera Kelso, Lead Midwife, Community Midwifery Services, SHSCT endorsed the Peer Support Programme and highlighted its role in complementing existing community-based support for breastfeeding mums: “This is an exciting new development for breastfeeding mums in the Southern area, she said. It enables them to access advice and support from another mother who has herself successfully breastfed and is available from within her own community to share her skills and experience.”
Speaking of her role as a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter, Emma O’Neill said: “Becoming a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter has given me the opportunity to become involved in my local community to help other mothers who are experiencing difficulties whilst breastfeeding. From my own experience, I know how lonely you can feel and how support can really pick you up and help you to continue to breastfeed successfully.”
Orlaith Moley concluded: “The newly trained Peer Supporters will be put in touch with mothers who are experiencing difficulties in breastfeeding. Advice and support will be offered over the phone or by home visits from the Peer Supporters. The Peer Supporters receive regular mentoring and support from community midwives from the SHSCT.”
For more information about the Programme contact Orlaith Moley, Project Manager, ‘Healthy Steps for Life’ on: 028 3741 4606.
For press enquiries contact: Elaine Hyde, PR Assistant on: 028 3741 4597.