Once upon a time there was a newly qualified Breastfeeding Counsellor called Maddie who was looking for ways to support her local community of nursing mothers. She was the a mother of two, with a daughter attending Homerton nursery in Cambridge. Homerton was one of the first new-fangled Children’s Centres in the city; hubs of support for parents of pre-school children. The Breastfeeding Counsellor asked Homerton if they were providing breastfeeding support, in line with the Children’s Centre remit. Turns out that they weren’t – and they wanted to!
But that Breastfeeding Counsellor had a problem. She was very poor. To run a breastfeeding group, every week, as well as keep on top of the admin the group generated would be too much to do as a volunteer. Even with help, it didn’t look possible financially. So she talked to her friend Rachel, the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. And together, they talked to the Children’s Centre. And the Children’s Centre were more than happy to pay these ladies a small fee to run the group. They were also able to provide funds to make sure they had tea and coffee and biscuits, admin help, cushions and footstools for the mothers, leaflets and information for the parents to take away and most importantly, a room they could call home. The fee meant that Maddie and Rachel could afford to commit to running the group, come rain or shine, every week.
The group was launched. They had a party. Their picture was in the paper! The mums started coming. Only a few at first, then more and more. The midwives and health visitors of the city began to hear how much the mothers were helped, how welcoming the group was, how “bathed in love” the mothers felt when they visited. People began to hear that Homerton Breastfeeding Drop-in made a difference. Soon the group was swamped. Maddie and Rachel needed help. They reached out to a La Leche League Leader called Justine who began coming to help. They asked local peer supporters and doulas to volunteer to help out, greeting the mothers, making tea and chatting to the mums while they waited. They encouraged the mothers to talk to each other as well, forging friendships and giving each other support in a safe, welcoming environment.
The group was able to welcome fathers, older siblings and grandparents; providing a truly holistic support to the whole family. Student Midwives and Health Visitors began to ask to come along to the group to observe and learn from the support given and listen to the mothers’ stories.
Mothers came back. Knowing they would find a listening ear, useful information and non-judgemental support whatever their problems, and however they were feeding their babies.
The Homerton breastfeeding clinic is one of the most valuable services I know of for the well-being of mothers and babies. My children and I benefitted from being able to continue (or resume) breastfeeding after significant difficulties, thanks to their calm and expert advice. Diana Stewart
The group, through long years hard work, became an integral part of Cambridge city’s parental support infrastructure. Alongside the other well established groups around the county, Cambridgeshire mothers could access skilled, experienced, qualified breastfeeding support almost every day of the week. Breastfeeding rates were increasing. The health of the city’s babies and children was improving. There was much still to do to improve the lot of all mothers, but Homerton was making a difference. Every year, they asked mothers how much the group had helped them. The positive stories poured in.
That small child at Homerton nursery is now at secondary school. Thousands of parents have been welcomed into the warmth of Homerton Breastfeeding Drop-in. The Children’s Centre staff and the breastfeeding group staff became firm friends, enjoying working as a team to support the mothers and babies of Cambridgeshire. Our team now encompasses Anna, an NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor because funding cuts have meant the closure of the support groups she ran.
Every mother who gives birth in Cambridge is told about the breastfeeding support Homerton offers. The group helps very young babies and supports mothers who are suffering greatly as they struggle to initiate breastfeeding. Homerton Breastfeeding Drop-in is not only well-used and well-loved, it has become a vital local frontline service.
I really struggled with breastfeeding in the beginning, and the sessions at Homerton really helped me keep going. If it weren’t for the support, practical advice and reassurance i got there i don’t think i’d have kept on breastfeeding, and i’m really glad i did! Always welcoming, friendly and with so much knowledge and experience! I had few friends/family who breastfed, and really needed somewhere to ask questions and have someone observe a feed and help. Only a face to clinic like this would give that opportunity, with the chance to come back again and again as needed. And to talk to other breastfeeding mums without embarrassment really helped. This caring place is exactly what is needed to help people to get going and keep going with breastfeeding. Claire Gunton