Feeding support for Leicester mums
Mammas was launched in 2010 as a Community Breastfeeding Peer Support Group and continues to grow with the support of Near Neighbours grants.
Led by Board Certified Lactation Consultant Sally Eldridge, the group now offers more than much-needed new baby feeding advice. Antenatal classes, exercise classes, a telephone helpline, a WhatsApp group to keep mothers in touch, baby massage classes, plus outings for mums and babies to enjoy together, are all part of the service.
As well as offering feeding support, Mammas has many incidental benefits, as Sally explained: “We find that our group offers a vital means of social connection for many mothers who wouldn’t otherwise have it.
“And with so many women in contact with us, we occasionally come across issues of domestic violence, mental health problems, such as depression, and women carrying the additional burdens of seeking asylum. Women who come us build a strong bond of community and trust, which gives them confidence to talk about these things. When an issue comes to the surface, we can signpost them to other services that will help them.”
Its location in Highfields means that it serves an area of high social deprivation and child poverty, with 95% Black and Minority Ethnicity. Through Mammas, new mums from many different countries, cultures and faiths can share in and support each other through the universal joys and anxieties of having a new baby.
Today around 400 mums and babies benefit from the project. There are 85 mothers trained or being trained as peer supporters, a number which has grown swiftly from the first group of mums began their training in 2008 when it was first launched.
Sally said: “We offer this service in an area where social isolation is a risk due to language barriers, or cultural backgrounds. We offer advice and support through trained women who are mothers themselves, who speak different languages and have an understanding of the faith and cultural needs of this very diverse area.”
Rahat Ahmed is a trained Mamma peer supporter. She used the service herself for the first time in 2013 when she was pregnant with her daughter Eshaal, now four. Rahat has hereditary spastic paraparesis, which means she has impaired mobility and uses a wheelchair. As well as breastfeeding tips, Mammas offered her invaluable advice on carrying her baby using a sling.
She said: “I had the combined support of the family support officer, community physios and the health worker through my pregnancy, but Mammas gave me somewhere to go – it was originally based very close to my house. There are so many ways to use a baby sling, and this gave me methods to carry Eshaal and make getting out and about that little bit easier.
“I saw the various issues of other women there and my own sisters had experienced breastfeeding problems too. I was invited to do the Mammas training and accepted. I now help with advising mums on WhatsApp and over the telephone.”
She said: “I’m quite a shy person really but it’s helped me meet other people and to empathise with them, and it’s good for me too.”
Since 2012, Mammas has received over £9,000 in grants from Near Neighbours to expand their services and reach more women. Through Sally’s professional contacts, the project links with and advises other projects across the world.
She added: “When mothers come to us they’ll mix with women from other countries and faiths alongside women from the same country and/or faith, but they are united in their desire to give their babies the best possible start in life. We find that mothers together, supporting each other, breaks down barriers between faiths and cultures. I believe the richness of the Mammas community is one of its greatest strengths.”