Friday, 15 June 2012

Breastfeeding Support Groups

Breastfeeding Support Groups have always been a lifeline for me.  They have been a place to go to get expert help and advice when having breastfeeding problems.  They have been a place to go just to have a reason to get out of the house with a newborn.  They have been a place to meet people going through similar experiences who I can share thoughts and solutions with.  They have been a place where I have been able to shed a tear, share a funny poop story and learn how to nurse in public.

I have always read about the success of support groups and the amazingly positive effects that support groups and peer supporters have on the success of breastfeeding.  I have had the opportunity to be a part of this process in two countries now, and I don't have to read the studies telling me that support groups and peer supporters have a positive effect on breastfeeding, because I have seen it first hand time and again.

What is a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter?

A breastfeeding peer supporter is usually but not always a woman who has breastfed and has received additional training in lactation who spend time supporting women through their breastfeeding journey.  In the US where I ran a peer support program, a peer supporter might reflect the local population in terms of ethnic backgrounds, language and sociodemographics.  We chose women who had successfully breastfed for at least 6 months and were of childbearing age.  There are many different peer support programs run by many different agencies that utilise the experiences of many different women.  In the area I live now, the local peer supporters are of varying ages with varying breastfeeding experiences and who volunteer their time.

What is a Breastfeeding Support Group?

A Breastfeeding Support Group is a place where women (and their partners in many cases) can get together at a specified location and time to share their experiences of breastfeeding and parenting.  In the majority of cases such groups are facilitated by peer supporters or a lactation professional.  The groups are facilitated in many different ways, and each group will usually find its groove and what works best for them.  Some groups are a facilitated discussion with a set agenda, and some cover immediate topics affecting the group.  The majority of groups that I have attended in the UK revolve around women having their problems discussed and usually resolved by a breastfeeding peer supporter or lactation professional.

The theme here is SUPPORT.  Speak to any woman who has breastfed and she will tell you that she succeeded because of the support that she received from family, friends or institution, or that she failed to breastfeed as long as she planned because of a lack of support from her family, friends or institution.  Support can make or break the breastfeeding relationship.

Where can I find a Support Group?

Support groups for breastfeeding are really quite common in the UK in most areas.  I was pleasantly surprised by this when I moved back to the UK.  Support groups are run by lots of different organizations and support can be found on the internet 24 hours a day too.  The following organizations may be holding a support group in your area -

La Leche League
Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
NCT (National Childbirth Trust)
NHS (National Health Service) 
Sure Start Children's Centres
Baby Cafe

I'm sure I may have missed some locally specific groups, so ask your midwife for information about your local resources.

We have been born into the time of internet, and with this comes social networking.  You no longer have to leave the house to get breastfeeding support from your peers.  You can just logon with your laptop or mobile phone and get answers for all of those silly yet important questions you are scared to ask someone face to face.  There are different places to find support on the web, but you may want to think about the following places -

The Lactivist
Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths
Analytical Armadillo
The Leaky Boob
The Blactivist
Or search for a group locally

Twitter - search breastfeeding threads #bf #breastfeeding

Forums with breastfeeding threads -
Natural Mamas
The Bundle Jungle
Baby and Bump

I'm sure I have mentioned this before, but you'll find that different forums and facebook pages will provide different kinds of support.  You will need to try a few before you settle on a regular place for support.  As with any group such as family or friends there are different views on every aspect of life and you will find that if you have a question on  one topic you will go to one forum, and another forum for another question.  Breastfeeding can evoke very strong emotions, and you will soon find which forum is made up of women who share some or all of your beliefs.

I live in the Sevenoaks area of West Kent.  In this area there are lots of support services for breastfeeding families.  The majority of support groups are run through the local PCT (as was known) and the local Kent Sure Start Centres.  Many of the groups are attended by lactation professionals such as Jane (an IBCLC, as qualified in lactation as you can get), or Ingrid (an NCT breastfeeding counselor).  All of the groups are attended by Breast Buddies who are volunteer peer supporters trained by Jane and Ingrid.  Breast Buddies can also be found at the local Maternity Hospital in Pembury on the postnatal ward sporting their pink t-shirts.  If you meet a Breast Buddy and make a connection, she may even give you her contact details and agree to come to your house to give support if needed.

I'd highly recommend that you attend your local breastfeeding support group before you have your baby.  It's great for getting any last minute questions answered by other breastfeeding Mums, and you will know exactly where to go if you need help or support after the baby comes.  It's a lot easier looking up these things and finding where to go before you have to get there with a little person.

Here is a list of the Breastfeeding Support Groups available in West Kent -

Attended by a Lactation Professional

The Little Forest Children's Centre
Friars Way, Tunbridge Wells TN2 3UA
01892 532319
Tuesday 9:30am - 12:00pm

Tonbridge Baptist Church
Darenth Avenue, Tonbridge TN10 3HZ
01732 352824
Tuesday 10:00am - 12:00pm

Salvation Army
74-80 Union Street, Maidstone ME14 1EE
01622 681808
Wednesday 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Antenatal Breastfeeding Session provided on the 1st Wednesday of the Month 2:00pm - 3:00pm
Free parking available next to the Salvation Army building

Spring House Children's Centre
Nr Sevenoaks Hospital, Hospital Road, Sevenoaks TN13 3TP
01732 465539
Thursday 9:30am - 11:30am
Parking costs £1.50 for 2 hours, free parking can be found on streets nearby for 1 hour maximum

Cranbrook Children's Centre
Carriers Road, Cranbrook TN17 3JZ
01580 713296
Thursday 1:00pm - 3:00pm

Swanley Children's Centre
Northview, Swanley BR8 7BT
01322 668132
Thursday 12:30pm - 2:30pm

Attended by Breast Buddies - 

Little Forest Children's Centre
Friars Way, Tunbridge Wells TN2 3UA
Wednesday 9:00am - 11:00am

Harmony Children's Centre
High Street, Rusthall, Tunbridge Wells TN4 8RZ
01892 520582
Support provided on request only

Greenfields Children's Centre
Rutland Way, Shepway, Maidstone ME15 8DR
01622 750025
Friday 10:45am - 11:45am

The Ark Children's Centre
Broadwater Lane, Tunbridge Wells TN2 5RP
01892 512680
Tuesday 1:00pm - 3:00pm

The Meadow's Children's Centre
Furfield Close (off Wallis Avenue), Park Wood, Maidstone ME15 9JR
01622 699900
Thursday 9:30am - 11:30am

Woodlands Children's Centre
Chapman Way, East Malling ME19 6SD
01732 874086
Monday 9:30am - 12:00pm
Free on-street parking, children's centre on left side of building at the back

Snodland Children's Centre
Rocfort Road, Snodland ME6 5NQ
01634 245476
Tuesday 9:30am - 12:00pm

East Borough Children's Centre
Vinters Road, Maidstone ME14 5DX
01622 757203
Thursday 1:30pm - 3:00pm

Paddock Wood Children's Centre
The Wesley Centre, Commercial Road, Paddock Wood TN12 6DF
01580 713296
Thursday 10:30am - 12:00pm

Eden Cafe
85 Bank Street, Maidstone ME14 1SD
1st Tuesday of every month at 2:00pm

Westerham Children's Centre
Westerham Hall, Quebec Avenue, Westerham TN10 1BJ
01959 569219
1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month 10:00am - 12:00pm
Limited free on-street parking available and paid parking also

Edenbridge Children's Centre
High Street, Edenbridge TN8 5AB
01732 864045
Friday 10:00am - 12:00pm

Other local breastfeeding resources are available on my website on the Breastfeeding Resources page.  Additional resources include the contact information for national breastfeeding helplines and local breastfeeding counselors

If you have enjoyed reading this incredibly long post about breastfeeding then you may like to read more, take a look at some of the resources listed throughout this post and check out the Keep Britain Breastfeeding website for more information about the Scavenger Hunt, who is taking part and what you can win.

The most generous people at BabaSling have kindly provided one of their slings as a part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Grand Prize, and they have also provided a sling as an additional competition prize for this breastfeeding post.  Please complete the rafflecopter below to enter both competitions.

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Congratulations! you have found the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Logo, now here is the rafflecopter to enter to win the Grand Prize and the BabaSling.

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  1. Hello! I saw you post tweeted on Twitter and came to have a look.Excellently written and like you I am a breastfeeding peer supporter.If you would like to write a guest post anytime for my blog I would love to have you.I'm @plus2point4 on Twitter

  2. My biggest breastfeeding supporter was an LLL volunteer who diagnosed my daughter's tongue tie when all the NHS staff had missed it. And her gentleness was a refreshing change from the manhandling of midwives.

  3. Lovely post, support is so important as it can be quite lonely if you don't know many other breastfeeding mums. I wish more people would attend groups, sometimes people assume they're only for when you have problems but that just isn't the case.

  4. I agree, I always tell women in the hospital to use the support group as an excuse to get up and go out and practise using the car seat/buggy etc and that we always have tea and biscuits. It's also a great place to practise nursing in public. When women are told that breastfeeding hurts and it's normal It concerns me that they will sit at home and not ask for help and try to get through it on their own, and eventually stop from the pain. I think when you tell someone it's not supposed to hurt and tell them where to go then they are more likely to ask for help.

  5. I was lucky to have a lot of people support my breastfeeding relationship with my son, not least my husband and the fabulous NCT lactation counsellor. But my fellow mums from the antenatal class were such a help--it's much easier to breastfeed in public when there are 5 of you sitting in a cafe all doing the same!

  6. My health visitor was so supportive and I can't thank her enough. Unfortunately my family weren't as supportive as they could have been but I know my mum would have been so proud oof me if she was here today

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  8. pressed enter too soon... My top tip all week has been to find your local support/peer supporters/breastfeeding group before baby is born so you can get to know them, this makes it much easier to contact them after baby is born; faces to names and voices. Its good to know you have support from people who you know and are familiar with and that you trust.

    my biggest supporter through my breastfeeding journey has been my other half who kept me calm through the early days and supported me with drinks and snacks and naps, recently its my daughter.... she's nearly three and a great advocate of mummy milk and breast feeding, and has supported me whilst feeding her baby brother by feeding her dolls along side me and telling everyone that her brother only drinks mummy milk

  9. My partner was just perfect with it all, he supported me where ever he could! And our families were great too. Everyone gave me the time and space I needed.

  10. My mother in law! She made sure I didn't give up - she encouraged me to keep calm and carry on :)

  11. My biggest supporter has been my husband. He has supported me the whole journey.

  12. The whole of my family have been supportive but even they roll their eyes or glaze over when I start banging on about breastfeeding again :D My Mum has been the most supportive and I think she is the only one who really knows how much it means to me to feed my son myself and to help other Mums who want to breastfeed.

  13. My mum has been amazing, and was really the first person to give me any useful advice. My husband takes the prize, though - he refuses to leave my side (apart from to get me something!) if the feed is hurting, even if it is late and he needs to go to bed. Sometimes all you need is to hear someone say "you've done incredibly well to keep going for so long when it's hurting", just to feel that the pain and effort is appreciated.

  14. Can have two!
    Firstly my Mum. I sure that seeing her breastfeed my brother and her positive attitude about breastfeeding through out my life helped me to have an easier start.
    My partner. He has helped lots and lots. Held my hand when I cried because I had gotten bitten ye again. Listened to me rant, encouraged me that we as a family were making the right decision to continue to breastfeed, oh and he makes fantastic tea and coffee and hot chocolates!

  15. There is a lot of support out there, but sometimes in the middle of the night it doesn't feel like that. My husband was the most amazing support, but in the loneliest night feeds twitter was my best friend. #zombiemoms #bfing #bfcafe are some more great hashtags

  16. Thanks for the great post i didnt get much local support with my little girl other than a leaflet during pregnancy and i have had the exact same leaflet this time around too so expecting things to be the same once bump decides to arrive. However i am very lucky to have an amazing husband who offers me help and support in anyway he can and is constantly praising me for how well i am doing and know just what to say to make me feel great. I have loved reading all of the different blogs in this pregnancy and i have picked up some great advice and tips from everyone that i wil be using this time around just cant wait till she arrives now :)

  17. My mum is my bigger supporter in fact she has been brilliant and really built my confidence up by encouraging me. My husband is also a great supporter too, it's so important to have these people behind you.

  18. If I'm honest , my biggest breastfeeding supporter was my baby daughter - knowing that I was doing the best thing for her , and seeing how much she loved breastfeeding were the things that kept me going!

  19. My husband and my mum are fantastic. In the first week I was massively grateful to a couple of the midwives who helped me when I was finding feeding really painful. I wish there was more support in our area as I felt the after care tapers off quite quickly here. I love feeding my little girl and we are still going strong at 7 months. Love reading other people's stories. Thanks for great links.

  20. My biggest supporters are my mum and my husband. My mum was an LLL counsellor, so she was really able to help and support me in the beginning. My husband has learned so much and is always ready to defend me. I've never had any really negative comments though, so I'm very fortunate.

  21. My husband, after an NHS antenatal class he was converted to breastfeeding, thus he's really supportive of whats best for me and baby

  22. My wonderful husband has been amazing throughout.