Central to Better Births is the principle that maternity care should be personalised and safe. This includes the need for improved and increased support for breastfeeding focused on practical help that supports and empowers women.
In Norfolk, Start for Life funding has been secured for a two-year programme to support infant and breastfeeding in line with WHO guidance and the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative.
As part of this wider programme, the LMNS team has been engaged to work with the three acute trusts in Norfolk and Waveney and Cambridge Community Services to increase volunteer peer support for new mothers and birthing people to start and sustain breastfeeding.
Peer support is recommended by the WHO and forms part of UK NICE guidance on maternal and child nutrition and on routine postnatal care.
The NHS three-year delivery plan for maternity and neonatal services requires all Trusts to achieve the UNICEF UK baby friendly (BFI) initiative for infant feeding by March 2027. Part of the BFI accreditation process specifies that Trusts provide infant feeding peer support.
Infant feeding peer supporters are volunteers with lived experience who complement and support the work of midwives and health visitors. The benefits of volunteers’ ability to spend time supporting new mothers with breast and infant feeding has been evidenced through research.
Why is this project needed?
Breastfeeding can give babies the best start in life, with overwhelming evidence that it is one of the most effective ways to promote and protect child, mother and birthing people’s health.
The UK has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Only 34% of babies are receiving any breastmilk by 6 months.
Peer supporters are uniquely positioned to support existing maternity services in providing breastfeeding guidance to women and birthing people. They can also succeed in reaching families and communities who do not easily identify with health professionals.
This project will aim to increase the number of volunteer peer supporters within our maternity wards and health visiting service. These volunteers will give help and reassurance in the critical time after birth, to reassure and support women and birthing people to make informed decisions about feeding their new baby and continuing to breastfeed as long as they want.
Supporting our acute Trusts and community services to develop and coordinate their in-house volunteer peer support will mean they can recruit and train more volunteers within maternity wards and in the community to help women and birthing people with their feeding choices.