This week I began my training for Breastfeeding Counselling – as a Peer Counsellor. To explain what that is: Since 1988 La Leche League have been training Health professionals (mainly midwives & health visitors) to train local mums to offer support and facilities to breastfeeding mums in the area. Those trained mums are called ‘Peer Counsellors’. So I hope that this is the beginning of a journey for me, towards a rewarding career of supporting mothers (I would like to become a Doula one day).
Perhaps I should say a little about myself here – as you do at the beginning of a training session! I have five children, ranging from 11yrs to 2yrs (four boys and a girl). I started out determined to breastfeed my first and I was very fortunate in that I had support from a lovely nurse right at the beginning and my first child was, as she put it, a natural. Perhaps it wold be more accurate to say that he was hungry and as determined as I was to get it right! So I have been very lucky that breastfeeding has been a breeze for me. It has also been such a wonderful experience that I want to do everything I can to help other women who want to breastfeed, but this training is going to help me understand the ins and outs of overcoming difficulties and communicating to mums in their time of need.
It’s a bit of a juggling act at home, because I also (with my partner) home educate our kids, but it feels right for me to be doing this little extra bit for me, & others, right now.
So on Monday morning I found myself booking my youngest two into the creche at the Sure Start centre in a nearby town. After having my children around me most of the time, this was quite a step for all of us, but the women at the Sure Start centre (the venue for the course) are fabulous and anticipate that there may be some problems with children settling. Nearly every mum in my group, of about 10, have also put their young ones in the creche for the first time, so we are told that this session will be an informal one and the few interruptions are normal. Bringing a sigh of relief from me, as I was dreading having to leave if my two became upset.
The session lasted about two hours and we were introduced to some of the professionals who will be training us (Sure Start workers, Midwives and Health Visitors) and some Peer Counsellors who trained last year and talked a little about what they are doing with their skills now. They are currently running a couple of drop-in sessions at the Sure Start centre, where mum’s can come along & comfortably breastfeed, with Peer Counsellors present to offer support or just to chat to. I was really encouraged to hear what they have accomplished in an area which has had its problems in the past.
It is also very reassuring to learn that I will become part of this team – a network of volunteers supported by the Primary Care Trust – so I won’t be alone in the rather daunting task of helping someone with a problem. In fact, the counsellors have a meeting once a month, with a creche available.
It was explained that many counsellors come and go, as their personal commitments change when their children get older and mums go back to work. Because of this, there are never really as many counsellors as they would like. Even committing ourselves to one event every two months would be very helpful to the team. It was good to get an idea of how much I’d be expected to do.
Some of the work also involves going along to Parentcraft sessions, to talk to mums and dads antenatally and one of the professionals present has a session booked for next week, which she invited us to. I am hoping to go along and I have since received a call from a current counsellor who is booked to go in that night. It’ll be great to see how she works and perhaps to chat to a few mums and dads myself. Now I just have to arrange it with my partner – having to put our five kids to bed alone is a daunting task!
At the end of the session we were set homework (shock! horror!). Oh, but it wasn’t so bad – just to log how many people we speak to about breastfeeding, or about the course, during the week. So, lots of feedback please folks, so I can tell them I’ve told several hundred people, lol! Seriously though, any questions, please ask.
Aferwards, I went along to pick up my youngest two from the creche and found that they just didn’t want to leave! They have been talking about it ever since and can’t wait to go back – what a relief.
Here are the aims of the Breastfeeding Peer Counsellor programme:
- To increase the incidence and and duration of breastfeeding in the area.
- To increase awareness of nutritional and emotional needs of babies and the role breastfeeding can play in meeting those needs.
- To establish a structure to provide ongoing information and support for breastfeeding mothers in the area.