Volunteers on hand to give mums breastfeeding advice in Barking and Dagenham

Breastfeeding peer support workers and mums at Furze Children's Centre

Breastfeeding peer support workers and mums at Furze Children's Centre - Credit: Archant

A group of breast-feeding experts want to let mums know they are on hand to help.

The breast-feeding peer support workers - all trained volunteers - are based at a number of children’s centres in Barking and Dagenham and offer both practical and emotional support to mothers.

Before April this year, support workers could contact mums before the birth then visit people’s homes and hospitals after the baby arrived. But following the multi-million pound council cuts in April, mums have to go to the centres to receive help.

“It’s a shame that the visits don’t happen any more as they were important,” said volunteer Joanna Ahmed, “but the free support is still available and we want to let everyone know where we are, especially as the number of women who breastfeed in the borough is low.”

Joanna, a mum-of-two with an 17-month old baby, believes many women give up on breastfeeding or don’t start at all due to a lack of support.

“Ninety seven per cent of women can physically breastfeed but many stop because it doesn’t work or is painful while some don’t even try because they don’t think they’ll be able to.

“If you have someone there to give you tips and support then the experience is so much more positive.”

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The benefits of breastfeeding are enormous, explained Joanna, 26.

“Breast milk can help prevent a number of illnesses and can even reduce the chance of the child becoming obese. It’s also great for the mum as it can keep your weight down.

“And it’s much easier to breastfeed than having to sort formula milk out, especially in the middle of the night.”

She does, however, believe the choice of whether or not to breastfeed should be down to the mother and no-one should feel bad or guilty if they decide against it.

A council spokesperson described breastfeeding support volunteers as “vital to the breastfeeding support agenda”.

“There are challenges and negative attitudes towards breastfeeding but you find that most problems can be overcome with peer support,” she added.

n To find out more about breastfeeding support services in the borough contact your local children’s centre.