E-newsletter for Cornwall Real Baby Milk Peer Supporters
Real Baby Milk CIC

Supporting mums who are mixed feeding

Following on from Stephanie’s article in the last newsletter about listening and communication skills, I’d like to explore supporting mums who are not exclusively breastfeeding.  There are many of them!  About 80% start breastfeeding in Cornwall, down to about 45% totally breastfeeding and 10-12% already mixed feeding by 10-14 days.  By 6-8 weeks, about 30-35% of mums are totally breastfeeding, with another 10-12% mixed feeding.  Many mums feel they have ‘let their baby down’ or are afraid they are going to be criticised for introducing formula, and this may make them less likely to seek support at a breastfeeding group.
If peer supporters have the opportunity to support mums who are using some formula, it’s helpful to take a feeding history, sometimes going back many days or weeks, or even to the birth.  Remember to use your communication skills to seek out this information as sensitively as possible eg ‘tell me how the feeding has been going so far’.  If the mum has already told you she is using some formula, remember to praise and encourage her for continuing to breastfeed her baby as well as giving the formula.
Mothers use formula for many reasons.  Some start using it in the first day or so after birth, and there is a strong association between using formula in hospital (seen as endorsed or encouraged by hospital staff) and stopping breastfeeding sooner than if no formula were used in hospital.  This is why really good positioning and attachment support, and teaching hand expressing and giving colostrum, are so important.  Hospital peer supporters have a brilliant opportunity to get in early and help to empower mums with the skills they need to avoid or at least minimise formula use.
At a community group, think of the golden rules for successful breastfeeding –
  • Careful attention to good positioning and attachment
  • Feed baby at least 8x in 24hrs, including at least x1 at night
  • Offer both sides at every feed
  • Keep baby awake and stimulated and feeding as actively as possible throughout feed
If you have the chance, never assume she knows all this – go over it with her again, offer to watch a feed, reinforce the things that are right, help her make adjustments if necessary to improve the effectiveness of the feed.  If she needs to use formula, help her understand how to give it in a way which best supports breastfeeding eg
  • Preferably as a top-up to a breastfeed, not instead of a feed,
  • Ideally only 30-60mls once or twice in 24hrs – this can be incredibly effective
  • Can she learn to give the formula by cup or by finger and syringe rather than by bottle?
  • Try expressing perhaps 1-2x per day, so some top-ups can be EBM instead of formula
Keep encouraging her, the value of her breastmilk continues even if formula is used too, and encourage her to keep coming to the group so she gets ongoing breastfeeding support – it’s amazing how much effort some women put into feeding their babies even in incredibly difficult circumstances and they deserve our support!
Helen Shanahan

Account of the conference - 18 October 2014

The Conference was very well received by those who attended.  We were delighted that Alison Taylor, Lead Lecturer in Midwifery and PhD Student at Bournemouth University was with us to deliver a fascinating and thought provoking presentation on ‘Women's Breastfeeding Experiences - shared using video diaries’

This was followed by a presentation on the Health & Social Care Volunteering Funded (HSCVF) Breastfeeding Peer Support in Hospital Project, which explained the idea behind the project and shared the very encouraging initial outcomes. If you would like to know more about joining the Hospital Team please email

Naomi Hale, a previous Young Mum Peer Support Mentor, Trainee Trainer with Real Baby Milk and herself a neonatal mum gave a presentation on listening to and supporting the Neo-natal mum including some quotes from NNU mums which really touched the audience.

This was followed by Louise Hunt who presented some of her Msc Research findings and facilitated an Ethos and Aims activity where Peer Supporters’ suggestions on developing a clear Aim and Ethos statement for peer support groups were collected.  A further consultation on these aims and ethos is taking place via facebook - if you were not able to give your views at the Conference then please respond to the Facebook posts asking for your ideas or click here to email

After lunch attendees were able to attend two of a choice of four workshops:

  • Sleep – What is a normal sleeping pattern? How can we help?
  • Twins – The challenges and how to support.
  • Empowering Mums – listening & legislation - we are hoping to post a summary of the Equality Act and how this supports women’s breastfeeding out and about please check the website for updates
  • Group Development  - including Funding.

There were lots of very positive quotes from the Delegates but these two encapsulate what we were aiming for in delivering this event:

“Excellent speakers, emotional and thought provoking presentations that have made me think about my practice”

“Well organised, very informative, lots to think about. Excellent”

Due to the efforts of a small group of volunteer knitters each Delegate was offered the chance to take home a knitted breast to enable them to demonstrate hand expressing to any mum of need of this very useful and empowering skill! (See picture of our special bunting!)

Helen Shanahan IBLC, Infant Feeding Co-ordinator for Cornwall, presenting the Sleep Workshop to Delegates - we are hoping to upload a summary of this workshop onto the website and will post when we have done this - so watch out for our posts!

Stephanie Heard, Infant Feeding Co-ordinator for Cornwall (right) preparing for the Twins Workshop - similarly to above, watch out for our posts to access a summary of this workshop.

Empowering Mums workshop with Louise Hunt and Donna Negus

Group Development with Mary Gosling & Volunteer Beth Lydall - click here to access information on funding for groups

Alison Taylor, Keynote Speaker for the event, delivering her presentation on Women’s Breastfeeding Experiences - shared using Video Diaries

Thanks to all who attended and gave their time and enthusiasm!
Don't forget to signpost any very new mums (28 days postnatal and below) to the TEDs group for friendly support and resources

Supporting Mums through Social Media, Text & Email
Lesley Ibbotson NCT Breastfeeding Counsellor

This article is an opportunity to think about the way we communicate with mums and is designed to open this topic up for discussion on the Cornwall Group page – let us know what you think, what you have found works well and maybe something which you suggest others might avoid!  The way we communicate has changed so much in a very short time and before we open up the conversation to you about some of the practicalities of communicating in this way,  it might be interesting to think about the challenges and Opportunities...

There are many opportunities to engage with mums using electronic means and this is part of its appeal to us all as peer supporters.

  • It is accessible and although not exactly free, its cost is spread across the general ‘technology’ budget for a lot of homes.  It can be seen as an ‘essential’ for younger parents and so the technology needed (smart phones or tablets/computers) are afforded before other things which an older generation might consider more important.
  • Supporting mums in this way can be across a wider socio-economic/age group than previously possible if relying on personal contact alone.
  • It could be argued that getting discussions going via social media can normalize breastfeeding.
  • It certainly gives us an opportunity to be pro-active in doing so.
  • It is helpful to be able to post links and pictures to illustrate something we are trying to get across so can help those of us who ‘learn’ in a combination of different styles.
  • The relative anonymity of electronic contact can be freeing to mums and so they can be less reticent about how they are feeling – this can also work on the flip side and present challenges to us and how we support.
  • The act of writing something down in a text or email can have a reflective power, which enables that mum to have some insight into her concern or problem.
  • Less Intrusive?

In terms of electronic contact with mums challenges certainly exist:

  • Our boundaries – where are they when we have access to our communications at all times?
  • Do we get more ‘crisis’ contacts where because it is so easy to contact people at all times of the day/night?
  • What about the pressure to reply? Can this pressure to reply be within us? Does the mum expect a reply to a contact late at night or is she just asking while she has the time to put her thoughts together?
  • How can we manage that expectation of reply?
  • Is there a generational gap?
  • Loss of all our navigational aids – tone of voice, body language
  • Can we read between the lines or misinterpret?
  • How do we replace the loss of those aids? What about the language we use?
  • More intrusive?

Does your Peer Support Group have a Social Media/Electronic communication ‘guide’ – some of the larger charities have developed their own guidance and it may be possible to get hold of a copy to start the discussion about how Cornwall Peer Supporters want to appear when using electronic means to communicate with mums.

Revisiting some of our Peer Support training can help when thinking about how to respond to mums posts for help & support

  • Take care to accept the mum’s feelings – criticising or judging will not help her
  • Share information rather than give advice – signpost and/or suggest
  • Separate our feelings/beliefs/experience from the mums
  • ‘Listen’ to any negativity about her experience with others – accept that experience and offer alternatives in a positive way without agreeing with or undermining the other support – which might have been misinterpreted.
Finally, a thought… it can sometimes be daunting to write a reply to something which is complicated and you may have many questions you could ask but, if a mum has chosen to contact you this way, it might be very important to at least initially reply to her using the same method rather than asking her to phone/visit.  This may be the way she is comfortable asking the question and this might be your only chance to support her with your experience and friendship …
Louise Hunt, who gave her presentation at the conference is still wishing to hear from any peer supporters with ideas on what sort of Ethos & Aims should be reflected and communicated to mums, peer supporters and Health Professionals.  The question posed at the conference were:

Aims: What do you think the aim/s of peer support in Cornwall is or should be?

Ethos: What about ethos, how do you think we should be supporting mums?

If you were not able to be at the conference this is YOUR chance to feedback on this important issue - please email louise with your ideas
If you would like to add anything to RBM Cornwall Groups' Newsletter please let me know: 

This could be photos of your Group, tips and things you have found helpful at your group or about your own Breastfeeding Experience.

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