RATHER appropriately given that National Breastfeeding Awareness Week is being marked all this week, NHS Borders has taken the step of recruiting seven women volunteers who will offer peer support to women who are breastfeeding.
This help will complement the professional advice and support that all new mothers are offered by their midwives and health visitors.
The volunteer peer support project is being launched today, Thursday, June 28 when Calum Campbell, Chief Executive of NHS Borders will present awards to the volunteer peer supporters on the completion of their training.
With the support of the NHS Borders Healthy Living Network, the volunteer peer supporters have completed a training programme to address some of the problems and concerns that new mothers say make breast-feeding more difficult for them.
Some of the difficulties mentioned are: feeling uneasy and embarrassed about breastfeeding in public places; being anxious or shy about feeding in front of other people and lack of support from their partner meaning women are less confident about breastfeeding.
Many women don’t have access to advice and support from their family or friends because breast-feeding is less common than it once was.
The newly-trained volunteers are clear about their role and enthusiastic about what they offer.
One commented: “Although breastfeeding your baby is a beautiful natural thing it can sometimes be hard. That’s when you need the support of someone who has been there. That’s why I wanted to become a peer supporter.
“There are so many good reasons to breastfeed your baby, and we want to help women identify their options, not to tell them what they should be doing. We want to help women to help themselves, not take control or responsibility for them.”
Dr Eric Baijal, Joint Director of Public Health for NHS Borders and Scottish Borders Council, added his support, saying: “Breastfeeding is key to better health in babies and has additional health benefits for mothers. We are very keen in Scottish Borders to encourage breastfeeding. We want to foster a culture where this is the natural and preferred way for mothers to feed babies where possible. Mothers often need encouragement, support and advice and the peer support volunteers will be a crucial addition to the existing support and advice already available to mothers locally.“
Councillor Catriona Bhatia, Executive Member for Health Service, Scottish Borders Council, added: “Breast feeding is best for both baby and mother, and is the natural and convenient way to ensure that children get the healthiest start to their lives. We need a cultural shift in the Borders and Scotland to make breast feeding the unquestionable norm for all mothers.”