As part of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, the Public Health Agency (PHA) today [Tuesday 26 June] launched a new Breastfeeding Peer Support CD to train those who volunteer to help breastfeeding mums. As part of the event, which took place in Antrim, recently qualified volunteers will receive their certificates for completing the PHA regional breastfeeding peer support programme.
Janet Calvert, Health and Wellbeing Improvement Manager and Regional Breastfeeding Coordinator at the PHA, said: “Breastfeeding is widely acknowledged to be the best way to feed a baby, providing a range of health benefits for both mother and child.
“In Northern Ireland we have seen some progress with increasing breastfeeding rates at discharge from hospital from 40% in 2004 to 45% in 2010. However, breastfeeding rates in Northern Ireland are lower than the UK as whole and other parts of Europe.
“The concept of peer support is that someone who has herself successfully breastfed, and has undergone some training on breastfeeding, is available from the local community to support a breastfeeding mother. The peer supporter is a true peer of the breastfeeding mother and not a healthcare professional.”
Peer support has been developed as a means to:
- form relationships with pregnant or breastfeeding women;
- share experiences and information;
- be a role model;
- normalise breastfeeding;
- provide social support;
- provide breastfeeding expertise.
Dr Heather Livingston, Senior Medical Officer for Child and Maternal Health, who awarded certificates to the newly qualified volunteers on behalf of the Health Minister Edwin Poots said; "The development of this accredited resource to be used across the region, will help enhance and provide training to volunteers who want to encourage and support other mothers to breastfeed."
“At the end of last month the Department's draft Breastfeeding Strategy 2012-2022 was launched for public consultation. In recognising that Breastfeeding peer support volunteers have an important role to play in their communities, the Strategy includes proposed strategic action to further develop and deliver peer support programmes and support groups.”
Janet continued: “The PHA recognises that peer support can be used to help address the needs of communities with very low breastfeeding rates that are seen as having ‘lost skills’ in breastfeeding, with little ‘tradition’ of breastfeeding for new mothers to draw on. It can be difficult for some women to commit to ‘breastfeeding if they rarely see anyone breastfeed their baby.
“The peer support training programme CD resource was developed by the PHA in response to a request to standardise breastfeeding peer support training and to meet recommendations from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Partners involved in the project included members of a sub-group of the Regional Breastfeeding Education Interest Group and the Open College Network (OCN) Northern Ireland. .
“The CD provides all the information a trainer and volunteer will need to meet OCN requirements to certify as a peer supporter. It builds on the experience and knowledge of the volunteers, to enable them to provide an effective peer support service for breastfeeding mums. I would like to commend all those involved, especially the women that offer up their time and have successfully qualified as Breastfeeding Peer Supporters.”
Contact the Public Health Agency on 028 90553663
Notes to the editor
- The National Breastfeeding Week will run from 24th - 30th June 2012.
- The training programme has been developed by the PHA and will standardise breastfeeding peer support training in Northern Ireland. The programme is in line with the DHSSPS draft Breastfeeding Strategy for Northern Ireland currently undergoing public consultation, and the consultation is due to end 28th September 2012.
- It was developed with Open College Network (OCN) Northern Ireland and must be assessed by qualified midwives and health visitors who are lactation consultants, or equivalent, or have completed the three day UNICEF Baby friendly initiative (BFI) management course plus the BFI trainers’ course or similar teaching course, or by qualified breastfeeding support volunteers from the nationally recognised UK breastfeeding organisations who have completed their organisation’s preparation for training breastfeeding peer supporters.