This post was most recently updated on June 25th, 2018
This is the first in my series of guest blogs for our alternative Breastfeeding ‘Celebration’ Week. See my post for the context and an explanation of the week and how we feel about it. In the context of the swathing cuts that infant feeding support has suffered over the last couple of years, we feel there isn’t really much to celebrate, other than the incredible fortitude and resilience of the mothers who continue to feed their babies despite the lack of skilled support available to them. Whether they battled through and managed to sustain lactation or resorted to formula, we salute them.
But for the Dept of Health to think there is anything to celebrate is an insult, when the whole edifice is being pretty much maintained by unpaid volunteers. Here is one of them, anonymously telling us how the system has been dismantled in her area.
I am a breastfeeding peer supporter in Kent where we have recently had some big changes. As of 1st June our breastfeeding support has been taken over by Kent County Council and the Health Visiting team. Prior to this our breastfeeding support groups were open access, so you could drop in when you needed to and be seen by a breastfeeding counsellor or a lactation consultant. Now you can see a Health Visitor who has had some extra training in breastfeeding and will refer you to a lactation consultant after that if she feels you need to see one.
If your nipples are bleeding, cracked and extremely damaged this wait for referral could be the end of your breastfeeding relationship right there – failed by the system once again.
Some of the groups have had health visitors not show up so we as peer supporters are left on the front line to apologise to mothers and do what we can within our boundaries to help and tell her to phone the duty health visitor between 9am-5pm… failed again by the system.
Many mothers in our area are not under the care of the health visiting system for 10-12 days. This we all agree is the time when mothers need breastfeeding support to get breastfeeding established. These mothers are being told that their midwife can refer them to the lactation consultant but none of the midwives know how the new system works so are unable to refer……failed again by the system.
Speaking purely from a peer supporter role and not for the mothers. I used to have a wonderful volunteer lead for my area. She would arrange our rotas, cover if our children were sick or for whatever reason we could not make it. She would answer our questions and just be the lady at the end of the phone whenever I needed her. As of 1st June I do not have a lead… they have not employed one yet… we as peer supporters are left to muddle through to make sure someone will be in group and we are told if we have any questions to phone the duty health visitor… I and my fellow peer supporters feel lost and failed by the system yet we continue on because mothers need us.
They need us more then ever now that the loving system they had before has been taken without a second thought.
If you live in or near to London, please get down to Parliament Square for a breastfeeding sit-in on Tuesday 26 June 1-4pm. Bring your banners saying “End breastfeeding cuts” as well as your local banners. If you live further north, please get over to join the Blackpool protest 10-11am on Wednesday 27 June at Bickerstaffe Square.