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New breastfeeding support programme launching in Stoke-on-Trent

Published: Friday, 16th April 2021

A new breastfeeding peer support programme is launching for mums in Stoke-on-Trent.

A new breastfeeding peer support programme is launching for mums in Stoke-on-Trent.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is working together with a nationally recognised organisation to establish a local peer support programme to reach mums across the city.

The Breastfeeding Network has trained and supported 14 new volunteers to become qualified Breastfeeding Helpers. They have undertaken a training course to enable to offer other mums in the city one-to-one practical and emotional support. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, sessions will start taking place over Zoom and will look to develop into face-to-face group sessions when it is safe to do so in the future.

The programme is being funded by a £16,000 grant from the Maternity Transformation Programme (MTP) which has been match funded by the city council, meaning that a total of £32,000 has been invested into developing the scheme over the next two years.

Councillor Lorraine Beardmore, cabinet member for leisure, culture and public health at Stoke-on-Trent City Council said: “It has been brilliant to establish such a great partnership with The Breastfeeding Network and to be able to invest in a scheme that will benefit new mums and babies in Stoke-on-Trent. 

“Having a baby is such a wonderful thing, but it can also be daunting and isolating, and I know first-hand that breastfeeding can be challenging, without the added issues everyone has faced over the pandemic. This new programme will support mums both practically and emotionally in a safe environment, and they’ll be able to connect with the programme volunteers who have been through breastfeeding themselves and have completed intensive training. Having someone who can fully understand your struggles, can talk through them with you and offer advice is invaluable. 

“Breastfeeding makes a key contribution to a child’s health and development – and also has many benefits for mothers – and we want to see the best support available in order to increase its uptake within the city. Most importantly, we want to ensure mums feel empowered to make their own choices for what is best for them and their baby, and know that there is somewhere for them to turn to for advice and support.”

Sabryna Porter is from Stoke-on-Trent and is one of the qualified Breastfeeding Helpers running the group. She wants other mums across the city to feel supported and comfortable asking for help: “I know personally the challenges of breastfeeding and I received incredible support at a breastfeeding group back in 2011. New mums are really vulnerable and need time and space to speak about their experiences and needs. I took this opportunity to become a Breastfeeding Helper because I want to be able to help other mums meet their breastfeeding goals – I know that without the peer support I received, I wouldn’t have met mine.

“The training we have all received to become Breastfeeding Helpers has been really comprehensive and enjoyable. We’re a really friendly, approachable group and we’re all passionate about supporting mums and babies. Our main aim is to ensure mums have access to evidence-based information and have a space where they can share their experiences and listen to other mums’ journeys. We want all mums and their babies to be welcomed into a warm and inclusive space where they are comfortable to ask for support.

“Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the safest option is for our group to take place virtually for now. The groups will take place on Zoom, and there will still be access for mums to receive one-to-one support completely confidentially. We will look forward to meeting mums and babies in person as soon as it is safe to do so. If any mums have any questions at all, please do contact us and we’ll be happy to help with any concerns or queries they might have.”

Similar volunteer peer support programmes are in place across the country including in Derbyshire and Sandwell. The Breastfeeding Network has worked with these programmes and they continue to see excellent results. In Sandwell the programme has been in place since 2010 and more than 6,000 mums have been supported. Breastfeeding initiation rates have also risen from 56 per cent to 75 per cent during this time. The Breastfeeding Network has helped to support mums in Derbyshire since the scheme there began in 2018, where over 160 families are supported each month.

Councillor Beardmore added: “We have actively listened and engaged with local parents to understand their concerns about breastfeeding support in Stoke-on-Trent. Taking on board this feedback and conducting research into the effectiveness of breastfeeding peer support programmes, and the positive results in Derbyshire and Sandwell, we decided that the peer support model was the best model to implement in our city. I am looking forward to seeing how the programme progresses and hope that mums in the city take up the opportunity to access this free support if they need it.”

Nina White, programme manager at The Breastfeeding Network said: “We are looking forward to building on the work of the Breasts and the City group and have trained 14 new breastfeeding peer support volunteers who will initially be running virtual drop in groups and then go on to set up new physical breastfeeding groups and support more local families. We have also recruited a Volunteer Coordinator, and are building relationships and partnerships with organisations and groups across Stoke.”

Shereen Fisher, chief executive at The Breastfeeding Network said: “The Breastfeeding Network is delighted to have been chosen to work with local parents and Public Health to establish and develop a breastfeeding peer support service across Stoke-on-Trent. This move represents a strong opportunity to establish a secure offer of local breastfeeding support for parents and build on the hard work initiated by local parents and volunteers.”

Sessions will take place via Zoom on Mondays and Fridays between 10am and 11am. The first session will take place on Monday, April 19. For more information and to book a place, please email stoke@breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk or message the group’s Facebook page via https://www.facebook.com/BreastfeedingNetworkStoke

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For all media enquiries please contact the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232395

For more information on The Breastfeeding Network, please visit: https://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk/about-us/

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