Informing families and facilitating friendships
The idea for Breast Buddies (BB), a mum to mum peer support service for new mothers, originated in Perth & Kinross and was conceived and developed in 2017 by a group of NHS breastfeeding support volunteers who were also local mums. Fast forward to 2020 and, as well as BB Perth and Kinross, the families of Tayside also benefit from breastfeeding support from BB Dundee (managed by Home Start Dundee) and BB Angus (managed by Voluntary Action Angus).
At the heart of BB are the face-to-face support groups which, in ‘normal’ times, run in a multitude of locations across Tayside. Our peer-supporters also work hard to ensure families are supported in whichever way works best for them, often communicating via phone, video call, text, social media or email. This digital element of the support BB offer has never been more important than during the Covid-19 pandemic.
All three projects have their own, busy Facebook groups, boasting more than 2000 members between them. All of the projects have WhatsApp groups in place, bringing together mothers from the individual areas in which face-to-face groups are usually held. Like many organisations we have utilised Zoom for weekly group ‘meets’, as well as offering 1 to 1 video calls for those who need a little extra support.
As we have set out in our poster, the virtual antenatal classes were a huge part of BB’s response to lockdown restrictions. Our volunteers recognise the importance of antenatal education and were troubled by the idea that the suspension of NHS classes would see families go without it. We are fortunate to work closely with NHS Tayside’s Infant Feeding team and were able to discuss with them the idea of creating a virtual alternative to the usual NHS ‘feeding your baby’ parent education class. With their support, volunteers led on the creation of a PowerPoint presentation which explores breastfeeding in depth. We were keen to ensure our class also gave up-to-date, evidence-based information around formula and bottle feeding, as well as responsive parenting in general. The presentation itself has an array of links to videos, articles and websites, which we hoped would be useful to families both before and after their baby arrives.
We have found that women engaging with BB during pregnancy are going on to access support once their baby arrives, often having already established relationships with peer-supporters and other mothers. The WhatsApp groups created after a class, as well as our local groups, provide a crucial opportunity for women to socialise.
We are very proud of the support that these classes have offered Tayside families during the Covid-19 pandemic. But don’t take our word for it; here’s what mothers who participated in our virtual classes have told us about their experience:
Knowledge is power” and the virtual classes meant that I was able to prepare better for breast feeding my baby. I felt confident and relaxed when my baby was born and I think this was in a big way down to attending the virtual class.”
“The support is invaluable. Without BB I’d have given up feeding. They also signposted me to the feeding team at the local hospital when my problems were more complicated.”
“I can’t thank the ladies of BB enough. In these strange circumstances I’ve felt so alone and really unsure of what to expect. This group and the ladies in it are fantastic and so supportive. It’s really made my whole experience a little brighter after worrying so much.”
Cara Jamieson is the Breast Buddies Peer-Supporter