Lauren Collett, Lambeth Milkspot
Tell us about yourself?
I'm Lauren Collett and I am Breastfeeding Peer Supporter for the Breastfeeding Network (BFN). I live in West Dulwich and have William (5), Lara (4) and Zachary (1). I volunteer at the Milkspot at Hitherfield Children’s Centre (Fridays, 12-2) with midwives Bev Radley and Sally Trieu. I am also now involved in the campaign to save the breastfeeding clinics that are under threat of closure since Kings announced last week they are cutting funding.
How did you get involved with The Breastfeeding Network?
During my third pregnancy, my community midwife asked if I’d be interested in supporting other women to breastfeed. I overcame several hurdles breastfeeding my first baby with strong support from local breastfeeding drop-ins called Milkspots, and so I was keen to volunteer. I attended a course run by the Breastfeeding Network, together with the Breastfeeding Support Team at Guys and St Thomas’s. I am trained to listen to women’s stories and concerns about their breastfeeding journey and to give information and support to empower them to improve their experience.
In most cases, improvements are noted after one or two visits to us through adjustments to the baby’s positioning and attachment at the breast. Sometimes other problems are diagnosed by one of the midwives, for example the baby may have a tongue tie. The mother will be offered support throughout any further treatment that is needed and is welcome to come to as many Milkspot drop-ins as they like. No problem is too big or too small - and indeed, many mothers do not come with a particular problem, but just wish to weigh their baby, and/or meet other local mothers. Everyone is welcome, partners included!
The hardest part of what I do is encouraging the mother to have the confidence to trust their own parenting instincts. New parents will often ask for the “right” way to do things, for example, how long should their baby feed for? How often should the baby feed? There are, of course, answers we can give, but many of the most important questions can be answered by the mother herself already, for she knows her baby better than anyone. My task as a peer supporter is, first and foremost, to listen; to help the mother find the confidence she deserves to have on her breastfeeding journey.
I strongly recommend that pregnant women start following the Lambeth Milkspots on Facebook now. The last thing they want is a last minute scramble for the information when they are in a post-natal, sleep deprived haze: https://www.facebook.com/Lambethmilkspots
How do you balance your involvement with managing motherhood?
I am lucky that my mother lives locally and can look after my one year old whilst I volunteer at the Milkspots. Sadly not all Milkspots have the funding for creches, which does limit some volunteers. I cherish the time that I have at the Milkspot each week; not only does it feel like a huge privilege to help other mothers (and cuddle a lot of newborns), but it has also increased my confidence to know that I have something to offer. As a stay-at-home mum, I often find myself preceding that description with “just a”. Being part of the Milkspot reminds me that there is no “just a” about any aspect of parenthood.
What do you love about SE London and being a mama here?
Our support network in SE London is incredible, as reflected by the Mamahood. We are a strong and welcoming tribe. We recently threw a charity birthday party for our one year old as we already have a house full of toys. The event was so well supported locally that we raised nearly two thousand pounds for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. It’s a special place that can do that.
Can you share one secret tip to other mothers in this area?
We all love getting our hair cut by Marco at Studio Salon Education on West Norwood high street. He’s great with the kids and they serve amazing coffee too!
Finally, can you tell us about the campaign to stop the closure of local Milkspots?
Last week Kings announced the cessation of the funding for midwives who facilitate the Breastfeeding support groups in the Kings Hospital catchment area, with 3 months notice. This is a crucial service - breastfeeding is challenging for many women and without support, breastfeeding levels will fall and women will go without this crucial post-natal support. Women come to us in tears at every group. EVERY group. Where will they go? What will happen to them? Kings obviously do not realise the implications of withdrawing this service. Care and support should not end the moment a new mother steps out of the hospital with her baby.
If you are a local mother, you can join me and fellow local mamas to campaign and sign the petition. There is also now a Facebook Group for anyone interested in getting involved or staying updated as the campaign develops.
The Breastfeeding Network also is useful for breastfeeding information and how to become a volunteer): http://www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
I will also be at the Milkspot tent at the Lambeth Country Show! Come and visit us for information, support or just a chat! Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th July, Brockwell Park.