Peer support workers are a group of mums who have all breastfed their own children and are based within health visiting teams across Derbyshire. They provide peer support and information to families to help each child have a healthy start in life. The team cover breastfeeding, infant and toddler nutrition and run local weaning groups.
My week is starting off with phone calls. We phone mums/caregivers/parents within 48 hours of them getting home from hospital to offer them support, mostly around breastfeeding but we also offer emotional support. Sometimes when a new parent answers the phone, they tell me about feeling a little lost and unsure of who they are. Sometimes they tell me that they miss their old self and are having difficulty adjusting to this new life. I reassure them that it’s ok to feel like this, and that it can take time to fit into the role of being a new parent. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to. So I spend my day talking to new parents and offering an emotional support lifeline.
Today I’m doing a home visit to see a mum who’s breastfeeding twins. I feel a little bit nervous because I don’t have lots of experience with twins, simply because not a lot of twins are around. The mum wants help with feeding the babies at the same time, so we spend time working on positioning, and making sure that the babies and mum are comfortable working around baby's hip alignment braces. It quickly becomes apparent that something isn’t working with one of the twins and I suspect a tongue tie. I head back to the office and refer the mum to the infant feeding specialists.
Today I’m visiting a mum whose low mood may have caused her milk supply to dip. Her brother died a few weeks before her baby was born, and she’s been struggling with her mental health. The shock of losing a family member and having a new baby must be all-consuming. I sit with her for an hour whilst she talks to me. I don’t think she’s looking for advice about her mental health. I think she just wants to talk to someone. I will be that person for her. But I do want to support her further, so I head back to the office and arrange a health visitor to see her as well.
I’m making phone calls and doing visits today with parents with babies aged 2-4 days. This is when we often start to see the most feeding issues. At this point, the parent is exhausted, as sleep deprivation hits and if feeding isn’t going well, their breasts and nipples are painful by now. One mum is being pressured by her partner to formula feed, but she is reluctant. She’s weary. But I’m here to support her. So we go through positioning techniques and discuss other ways her partner can bond with the baby. I explain that it can take a few weeks to get breastfeeding right and that she has every right to be emotional because she’s just made a human being and that is incredible!
I bump into a mum I worked with last year whose baby had cancer. The baby had chemotherapy and I supported mum to continuing breastfeeding throughout the baby’s treatment. I offered advice on managing breastfeeding during times when they couldn’t always be together. The baby has now finished treatment and looks well. It’s wonderful to see the baby and mum happy. The mum gives me a hug and for a moment I panic because of the pandemic. But feeling that pride in knowing that I helped her to do something that was important to her during such a difficult time, takes all my panic away. I relax. But only for a moment. There’s another visit to do.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, take a look at the rest of our website for advice or chat to one of the Infant Feeding team on our web ‘live chat’ on weekday mornings or contact your Health Visitor on our service information line 01246 515730.