Support for breastfeeding is a core element in Scotland’s public health priorities. Home-Start Perth is playing a key role in ensuring more babies are breastfed for longer with Breast Buddies, a peer support programme. Programme Co-ordinator Hannah Dalgety explains.

Home-Start Perth and the Breast Buddies team believe in the power of parents to raise healthy, happy babies and, in our view, that must include mums supporting each other to breastfeed their babies for as long as they feel is right for them.

The facts show that many mums stop breastfeeding before they want to. 75% of Scottish mothers say this has been their experience. This not only leaves many mums feeling sad and bereft of an experience that many feel is vital to their way of mothering, but puts them at a much higher risk of postnatal depression than those who breastfeed for as long as they want to.

Breastfeeding rates are linked to inequality. Those in the wealthiest areas are 1.7 times as likely to be breastfed at birth, and 2.3 more likely to still be breastfed at 6-8 weeks as those in the most deprived areas. We can change this because many mums say they stop breastfeeding before they would have liked because of a lack of confidence in breastfeeding. They are not sure what is “normal” and say they lack support to overcome problems. Scotland has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world so this makes it less likely a mother will find support among her circle of family and friends. Breast Buddies is working to fill this gap by building knowledge and confidence.

It works like this: Volunteers are trained by Breast Buddies and Home-Start Perth to support mums at face-to-face groups and informal pop-up cafes in venues all over Perth and Kinross. There is a phone based text support service (run in collaboration with NHS Tayside) and online support through the Breast Buddies Facebook group.

Breast Buddies volunteers are mothers too. They have the experience of breastfeeding their own children and have a passion and great enthusiasm for helping other mums. The dedication and energy shown by these volunteers as they juggle family life, work and volunteering is both inspiring and humbling. Many volunteers say the opportunity to volunteer with Breast Buddies has been life changing. As one volunteer put it:

“I have made strong friendships with the women who have gone through the training with me, they have become close friends. We are making a massive difference to our community shown by the increase in attendance to the groups and our online group. Breast Buddies gave me a sense of purpose when I was not working, these groups had a profound impact for me and now, thanks to…Breast Buddies I am able to give that back and hope to do so for many years.”

The mothers who come along to groups or contact volunteers through Facebook or by text, have also told us how important Breast Buddies has been to them. Described by one mum as “an absolute lifesaver”, the role of volunteers in enabling mothers to overcome challenges has had profound effects – including on the loneliness and isolation which affects many parents.

From improving mood to creating a renewed sense of confidence and belonging the simple act of “being there” for new mothers is described perfectly by a local mother:

“I had a very low mood for a while after my baby was a few months old and having these groups to focus on was sometimes the only thing getting me out of the house…having all of the other mums to speak to helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Initial results in terms of meeting Scotland’s health priorities have been good and the work will be further evaluated as it grows. We already know that in building community, strengthening mothers’ confidence and empowering them to support others, Breast Buddies is changing lives in Perth and Kinross. We are committed to finding ways of ensuring Breast Buddies peer support project continues for long enough to create a lasting legacy of powerful mothers and a culture of positive support for breastfeeding.

For more information you can find us on Facebook ‘Breast Buddies Perth and Kinross’, twitter: @breastbuddiespk, instagram: breastbuddiespk or contact Hannah Dalgety (Co-ordinator) Home-Start Perth, 01738 638847.