Breast Feeding Friend Volunteer Creates Positive Change for Mothers

23rd November 2022
1. Rochelle McAuley and Breastfeeding Project Lead, Jacqui Henning

Breastfeeding is important to the health of mothers and their babies, yet Northern Ireland has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe. Many mothers start breastfeeding in the early stages of motherhood, but give up as they feel there is a lack of support particularly in public spaces.

Rochelle McAuley is a mum of two young boys who juggles motherhood with being a student at the Newcastle SERC campus. Rochelle breastfed both of her children and understands how unhelpful and upsetting negative reactions from strangers can be while breastfeeding. She decided that she would like to support other breastfeeding women and trained as a Breast Feeding Friend (BFF) Volunteer with the South Eastern HSC Trust. In this role Rochelle is able to support and empower other women like her to carry on with their breastfeeding journey.

As a student studying at a college with a lot of mature students with children, Rochelle felt that she could make a positive change by bringing the ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ scheme to the college’s attention. The scheme promotes acceptance of breastfeeding and reassures mothers that they are supported in their choice to breastfeed in the facility which displays the scheme’s logo. This helps change peoples’ perceptions and normalise this very natural way to feed babies.

Rochelle met with the Students’ Union and explained the benefit this scheme would be to students, who like herself, were trying to manage motherhood and studying. The team were very supportive of Rochelle’s idea and took this to the heads of the College, who invited Rochelle to come and talk to them, share her personal experiences and explain the scheme in more detail. It wasn’t long before she was given the good news that SERC would be happy to implement the scheme, not just in the Newcastle campus, but right across all SERC campuses in Northern Ireland, Rochelle explained, “It is so important for women attending college to feel supported in their decision to breastfeed. I am so grateful that this scheme has been accepted so readily by SERC and it is nice for me to know that when I leave the college next year that I have implemented a change that will help others feel comfortable and supported in their choices.”

Breastfeeding Project Lead, Jacqui Henning said, “For new parents, taking a baby out in public for the first time is a big event. This can be made more difficult when a mother breastfeeds in public and finds opposition or criticism. Culturally we see more babies that are formula fed, rather than breastfed. A lack of awareness and empathy for breastfeeding mothers can cause stress and can be detrimental to a mother’s confidence. I am delighted that SERC have taken this very positive step to support women in their facilities to breastfeed.

“We are enriched to have Rochelle as one of our Volunteers within our Breastfeeding Peer Support Service (BFF) which connects breastfeeding mothers with Trust BFF Volunteers who have personal experience of breast feeding. The Volunteers are trained to empower and support other women and help guide them through the challenges they may face on their breastfeeding journey.

“SERC signing up to the Breastfeeding Welcome Here Scheme is a testament to Rochelle’s enthusiasm, encouragement and desire to support other mothers.”