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Home » Your Health and Services » Better births » Our news and your stories » Gemma's story

Gemma's story

Gemma was determined to breastfeed her second child, and with the help of her local support group she succeeded. Last year she trained to be a volunteer peer supporter, to help other mums.
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"My first experience of breastfeeding support was in 2015 when I was pregnant with my son. We had been attending antenatal classes and we had a half a day dedicated to information and guidance on breastfeeding. I don’t remember the specifics of the content but I do remember feeling positive about it and that it all seemed very natural. 

"My first steps into motherhood were rocky to say the least when my son arrived by emergency c-section. Initially things started well while I was in hospital and had specialist support on hand but once at home things started to unravel and I didn’t have a clue who to ask for help. Unfortunately the medical advice I did end up reaching out for was misguided and out of date, this and other factors at the time led to my mental health declining, and finally we switched to formula. My son and I have an incredible bond and he is a happy, healthy, 5 year old, but I carried the guilt of not breastfeeding him with me.

"When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter in 2019 I was determined this time I would do everything I could to give breastfeeding my best shot. I read ALL the books, watched videos, read every article I could find online, I made sure my midwife and consultant understood just how important breastfeeding was to me. In the end the best thing I did to prepare was to join the Peterborough & Fenland Breastfeeding Support Group 2 weeks before giving birth. I could ask all the questions I still had, I could tell my story about my first child to someone who understood, cared and listened, and crucially I had made the first contact so that after the birth I knew a place I could go for help and I had met them already.

"Without the support group I don’t believe that I would have succeeded with breastfeeding and still be going strong now, one year later.

"At the end of 2020 they were recruiting new volunteers to train to become peer supporters. I knew immediately that it was something I wanted to do. If I could help just 1 mother in the same way that I was helped then it would be worthwhile. 

"When I started volunteering I never expected to become as passionate about breastfeeding as I am now. When a Mum comes back a week after you spoke and tells you that the information you gave really helped and she’s had a great week, it is an amazing feeling. It can be challenging too of course, it is a constant learning curve that I am excited to be at the start of! It is so nice to be starting in-person support now and I look forward to meeting and supporting lots of incredible parents over the coming months (maybe even years, who knows!). 

"The biggest thing I have learned about becoming a volunteer is that very often you don’t need to have any answers. You just need to give the person a safe space to talk and then to really listen to them. 

"The nicest surprise to me about becoming a volunteer is that I have started to make friends with and become part of an inspiring group of women who support each other as well as the parents who access the services. 

"Becoming a peer supporter has been a huge positive to come out of a challenging and unprecedented year."