Role of the Breastfeeding Peer Supporter
Breastfeeding Peer Supporters are mothers of any age who have breastfed their own baby/s or are still Breastfeeding and want to support other mothers to have a positive breastfeeding experience. In Plymouth this role is carried out by volunteers, who have successfully completed a 10 week accredited training programme, received a satisfactory CRB check and undertaken a planned volunteer induction to the clinical/non-clinical environment.
Peer supporters aim to promote, protect and sustain breastfeeding within their local area, with the unique quality of being able to relate to mothers from a similar community, culture and values sets. They provide factual, evidence based information/research which enables mothers and families to make a fully informed choice about how they would like feed their baby/s.
1. Who can be a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter?
1.1 To be a breastfeeding peer supporter you must be:
- A mum who has breastfed (or is breastfeeding) and who has a positive attitude to breastfeeding.
- Willing to undertake the peer support training course.
- Prepared to become a peer supporter, which is a voluntary role, for at least 6 – 12 months
after completing the training course.
- Willing to have a CRB (Criminal Record) check done, in line with all staff and volunteers who work with or have access to children and babies in any setting.
- Willing to undertake safeguarding training.
- Willing to attend regular peer support networking / update sessions.
2. Desirable Qualities for a Breastfeeding Peer Supporter
2.1 As a peer supporter you will need the following:
- To be enthusiastic about breastfeeding and breastfeeding support.
- To have a good sense of humour.
- To be caring and have a non-judgmental attitude to other people.
- To be able to work well as part of a team.
- To be a good communicator.
- To be tolerant and understanding towards people from different social, religious, ethical and cultural backgrounds.
3. Role of Breastfeeding Peer Supporter
3.1 This is a role which is primarily to promote breastfeeding and to provide basic breastfeeding information, guidance and support, and includes the following:
- To be easily identifiable as a breastfeeding peer supporter – polo shirt / name badge provided.
- To promote the Plymouth Latch On network.
- To promote breastfeeding in a friendly and sensitive manner, in accordance with Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) standards and the local healthcare facility’s Breastfeeding Policy.
- To offer support and encouragement to breastfeeding women and their families, as requested by a health practitioner or by the woman herself, and within the boundaries of the breastfeeding Peer Support training.
- To be aware of the process for reporting feedback, e.g. reporting concerns to the appropriate health practitioner or designated member of staff.
- To be aware of and maintain the confidentiality of individuals.
- To be responsible to the named health practitioner for the clinical/non-clinical area.
- To maintain effective communication links with other peer supports, health practitioners and children’s centre staff.
- To be aware of infant/child safety issues and how to deal with any safety concerns arising.
- To be aware of health and safety issues including environmental risks and infection control.
- To keep up to date by attending regular network meetings, highlighting any personal training needs to the peer support mentor and participating in an annual review of practical skills.
- To participate in evaluation of training and of the Peer Support service, as directed by the relevant health practitioner or the breastfeeding coordinator.
- To be reliable and adaptable.
4. Breastfeeding peer supporters have a voluntary role within Latch-On Breastfeeding Groups, community settings, and on designated wards at Derriford hospital
4.1 Community environment – aspects of the role Specific to this setting:
- To work alongside healthcare practitioners and Children Centre staff, who have a responsibility for supporting mothers/parents with infant feeding.
- To help to create a welcoming environment, which is easily identifiable as breastfeeding friendly.
- This should be done in conjunction with the designated healthcare practitioner and Children’s centre staff?
- To welcome new and existing group attendees.
- To set up and clear away for the group as needed/negotiated.
- To assist with paperwork, which relates directly to breastfeeding or data collection on behalf of the Latch-on network e.g. registration and evaluation forms, as requested by the designated health practitioner/Children’s centre worker.
- To undertake a planned induction to the Latch-on venue, under the guidance and supervision of a designated health practitioner/Children’s centre staff member.
4.2 Hospital environment – aspects of the role specific to this setting:
- To wear PHNT I.D badge at all times whilst on the hospital premises.
- To report to a health practitioner on arrival in each ward area.
- To be aware of the security systems in the ward areas.
- To adhere to infection control measures in place in clinical areas.
- To offer verbal feedback to the healthcare practitioner regarding any concerns, matters arising, or relevant discussions pertaining to breastfeeding/lactation.
- To use peer supporters communication book as directed by the infant feeding coordinator.
- To undertake a planned induction to the clinical area, under the guidance and supervision of a designated health practitioner.
5. Role limits and boundaries
5.1 Breastfeeding Peer Supporters WILL NOT be expected to:
- Diagnose or offer treatment advice – this should always be done by an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
- Take on extra responsibilities outside of the role description – as a peer supporter you are aiming to encourage and to support; you should not be tempted to lend money, to offer childcare, to change nappies or to encourage other mums to become dependent on your support.
- Be involved in other ward or community activities e.g. bed making or cleaning!
- Undertake lone home visits/contacts.
- Give personal details to other mothers/parents, unless you choose to do so as an individual and not in your capacity as a peer supporter.
- Participate in any formal record keeping, which is entered into patients/clients notes, unless requested in exceptional circumstances e.g. where a safeguarding issue has been identified or suspected.
- Give formal advice/instruction on parenting issues beyond the scope of a breastfeeding peer supporter.
- Tolerate any inappropriate language or behaviour which is deemed to be aggressive, threatening or intimidating.
6. Maintaining knowledge and skills
6.1 Support and Updating for Breastfeeding Peer Supporters
- Peer supporters who have completed the breastfeeding peer support training are encouraged to attend regular Peer Support Network Sessions, which are held every 3 months and provide an opportunity to network, share good practice, reflect, gain practical support and regular updating of skills and knowledge.
- You will be expected to attend any mandatory training as requested by the organisation for whom you are volunteering e.g. Safeguarding, fire safety, infection control etc.
- You may be given the opportunity to attend the breastfeeding training sessions which is mandatory for health practitioners, as spaces become available.
- You will be offered access to secure I.T (password protected) peer support networks, for the purpose of communicating relevant experiences, challenges, and opportunities which relate to your role as a peer supporter. Information shared must maintain confidentiality to persons and organisations.
- You will be sent an electronic newsletter on a quarterly basis, which may identify further training opportunities, such as study days, conferences, and events relevant to your role.
- In the community, clinical and non-clinic settings, a health practitioner or designated children’s centre worker will have responsibility for supporting your role. You should ensure that you are aware of their contact details as a source of expert advice, guidance and support.
- The peer support mentor is the first point of contact for any issues arising from the role (as described above), which does not require immediate intervention.
- For any matters arising which requiring immediate attention, the peer supporter must seek the support of a health care practitioner, children’s centre worker or infant feeding coordinator.
Version 2 – Revised potterj/July 2012 /BFSG (review date: July 2013)