Mums raised a mug on Monday to celebrate the first birthday of two breastfeeding groups in Bury St Edmunds.
Launched by Steph Holland last September, the weekly breastfeeding café and fortnightly breastfeeding support clinic were borne out of her frustration at the support available to mums at that time.
Steph, founder of parenting and services network St Edmundsbaby, faced a similar struggle to access advice when her daughter Amelia was born five years ago, but eventually successfully fed her until she was three-and-a-half years old.
“When I had Amelia it was during one of the changeovers in breastfeeding support suppliers on the NHS, so there wasn’t much support at that time,” said Steph.
“Then I started getting feedback from women more recently telling me that it had happened again.
“I called a meeting for anyone interested in rectifying the situation. We decided to take matters into our own hands.”
And so two regular independent groups were launched to try to reach as many breastfeeding mums as possible.
The café, which is at the Apex every Monday, 11am-12.30pm, was set up as an informal and relaxed meeting space, with friendly mums who have breastfed or are still breastfeeding attending to share their own experiences. Some are peer supporters, some are training to be peer supporters and some are just ‘friendly mums’.
“It’s a place where mums and all their children can come. It’s comfortable and they’ll find supportive women here, or they can just sit and have a coffee with us,” said Steph, adding that the Apex had been ‘really supportive’ and reserved a comfortable seating area upstairs every week.
The fortnightly breastfeeding support clinic, at the Self Centre on Tuesdays from 3-4pm, was set up with lactation consultant and tongue tie practitioner Sarah Oakley.
Steph met Sarah through her own breastfeeding experience and, when asked, Sarah offered her services for free.
“She has been amazing,” said Steph. “I can’t thank her enough. The Self Centre has also let us use the space there for free, which is so helpful.”
The groups were then boosted by locality budget funding from five councillors to train 10 peer supporters and two breastfeeding counsellors to help run the groups.
“The Tuesday clinic is very busy and Sarah always sees lots of people and helps to resolve their specific issues.
“The Monday café can be quiet or it can be busy, but we are here every week – except bank holidays – whatever the weather,” said Steph.
“The groups have been running for a year now and they feel like they are building into something long-lasting.”
St Edmundsbaby’s next Pregnancy and Parenting Fayre is at the Apex tomorrow, from 10am-4pm.
There will be talks, storytelling, sling dancing, activities including sensory and messy play, face painting, hand massages and mini facials from Weleda, and stalls from maternity and parenting businesses.
For more information about the fayre or breastfeeding support, go to www.stedmundsbaby.co.uk