Virgin Care’s expert breastfeeding trainer Amanda Wheeler would normally be sitting in children’s centres or family homes helping new mums to breastfeed successfully.
But lockdown has meant that Amanda and voluntary breastfeeding peer supporters were forced to use alternative measures and go online with virtual sessions to support new mums with their breastfeeding journeys.
And these online sessions have had some unexpected benefits as the number of people using them has grown and even mums with babies just a few days old are able to log on and take part.
Amanda, who works for Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service who is ran alongside run Barnardo’s , is qualified as a UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative breastfeeding trainer.
Deciding to use technology to continue delivering an excellent service, Amanda and the team use the secure virtual platform WebEx to run the feeding groups. What started as a weekly session quickly grew to three per week.
These virtual sessions mean that new mums who are breastfeeding can continue to feel supported, come together in a safe and confidential environment, and still enjoy what many described as the highlight of their week.
Amanda said: “When lockdown started, I felt it was really important to ensure that mothers had the additional support they have always received at the weekly Infant Feeding Groups.
“The one overriding benefit of the Virtual Groups has been that women with very young babies have been able to easily attend – the youngest attendee was just two days old! This mum didn’t even get out of bed – so this was a great achievement!
“The Virtual Groups are highly attended, and although a lot of hard work goes into them, it is so, so worth it.”
The virtual Infant Feeding Groups have received incredibly positive feedback from the attendants, with many parents feeling comforted and grateful for the ongoing support in uncertain times.
One mother who attends the sessions with her 16-week-old child said, “I have always found it so helpful to hear from not just Amanda, but also from other mums who have ‘been there’ and offered some great bits of advice and additional support.
When you hear the other ups and downs experienced by us all, it really helps to normalise the breastfeeding journey and all that comes with it. As our feeding journey has become more established, I surprise myself when I realise we’re now at the stage of sharing our experience with those new to the world of parenthood and feeding!
The encouragement from Amanda and the group is incredibly helpful. There’s no judgement, simply lots of support to help achieve whatever feeding methods are right for you and your baby.”
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