We recently spoke with Amanda, a local Helensville peer supporter and mum of four. She’s a trained birth and pregnancy doula and has been breastfeeding for over nine years – including her two-year-old who she currently breastfeeds.
How long have you been a peer supporter?
I trained in October 2021, so just over a year.
I was working at the birthing centre at the time as a healthcare assistant. I’m also a birth and pregnancy doula. The peer support training was something I wanted to do to build on my work as a doula. It’s meant I can provide extra support for the people that I work with as well as working at the birthing centre.
What do you find most rewarding about being a peer supporter?
Being there for people to talk to when they might not necessarily have that support in any other capacity. Even if I can’t do something in person – especially with Covid times – I can be a sounding board and validate what they’re going through and be there for them.
What challenges do you see often? Is there a certain challenge or concern that most breastfeeding people face?
I come across a lot of people worrying about not having enough supply. Then there’s also the other end of the spectrum where people have a lot of supply, and it causes issues like mastitis and a baby that’s spilling.
Also, difficulty with getting the correct latch and positioning (resulting in damaged nipples), with the added possibility or anxieties of a lip or tongue tie.
Did being a mum inspire you to become a peer supporter?
Absolutely. I’m a breastfeeding mother myself. It’s been a huge part of my motherhood and parenthood journey. I’ve been through the difficulties – and the ups and downs – and know how important it is to have someone there that you can just tap into whenever you need to.
Sometimes you feel like you might be wearing out your friends or your family, so having someone that’s exclusively there for you for breastfeeding support is really important within the community.
I’m happy to go to people’s homes if they need it and want it. Sometimes people don’t want to leave their nest and so it’s great I can go to them.
How long have you been a doula for?
I did my training just over 4 years ago, I have been working on and off in between having my 4th baby. I’m now doing my certification. I love it. It’s my passion.
What difference does it make to the baby and the whānau in general when breastfeeding is successful?
It alleviates a lot of pressure within the family dynamics. A lot of the time stress is a key factor to the challenges they’re going through. It helps them when we can validate that what they’re going through is so hard but it’s normal as well. They’re not the only ones. It enables them to relax more into parenting. It’s such a big factor whether it’s through breastfeeding, or people that have had premature babies and they can’t breastfeed yet (they can only pump). And then they’ve got to think about getting into the breastfeeding journey a little bit further along. There’s just so many ways that it can be stressful for them. I think being able to support them however they need and refer them to lactation consultants – that we amazingly have access to through the birthing centre – it’s really huge.
Do you provide support right through the breastfeeding journey?
Absolutely. Yes. It’s not just newborns. The support I give will be for anybody, anywhere on their journey. I’m inclusive too of the rainbow communities. It’s not just mothers, but chest feeding and body feeding parents – however they identify.
I think it’s really important to provide that inclusive care. I’ve done some training around inclusionary care for the LGBTTQIA+ community. So learning the different ways, like induced lactation, for anybody that isn’t necessarily the pregnant person or has had the baby themselves – for example, transgender and non-binary parents and adoptive parents can induce lactation.
Providing inclusionary support for the rainbow communities with resources, and knowledge for their journey – believe is just as important so they have a safe space to grow and feel empowered too. I meet parents where they’re at and support them the best I can for their needs.
Helensville Birthing Centre is a very progressive centre. They’re very supportive and always try to do their best for the whole community, including the peer supporters.
Would you recommend being a peer supporter?
Yes, I think you learn really valuable information that you can pass on to your family and friends and generations to come. If anybody is thinking of doing the training, it’s well worth it. And it’s great being supported by the centre’s lactation consultants – they’re just gold.