Meet Our Team - OBS Volunteers
Peer Supporter Volunteers Tineke, Pat and Sam at South Oxford
If you attend any of our sessions, you will probably be welcomed by someone with a blue apron and a friendly smile. This will be one of our volunteer team - without them, we couldn’t do what we do!
The majority of our volunteers are Peer Supporters, who are all local mothers who want to give their time to help other families. Most of them have attended our sessions for support with their own child/ren, and they have all breastfed or provided their own milk for their baby for at least 6 months, and completed our 6-session Peer Supporter training course. They are well informed about the normal course of breastfeeding and able to provide a listening ear, signpost you to relevant information and other support groups, and give basic information about a range of common baby behaviours and breastfeeding challenges. They also help to moderate our Facebook group. They are not able to troubleshoot breastfeeding problems - if you have an issue to resolve they will introduce you to the session facilitator (or tag a facilitator online). Volunteers can attend with their own babies and young children, as long as they can meet their needs safely within the session, and modelling normal breastfeeding is an important part of the role.
OBS Peer Supporter Volunteers Class of 2018
Many of our Peer Supporters volunteer with us weekly (or more), so you are likely to see the same faces next time you visit! Some volunteer mainly in school holidays, when others may be less available. Some of our Peer Supporters also help out with fundraising activities and events, and with our breast pump loan scheme. We encourage our Peer Supporters to undertake further training in breastfeeding support, if they find that they share our passion!
“I really love volunteering for OBS. I have learnt so much about breastfeeding, both from the facilitators as well as from other local mothers. And it's lovely to see mums and babies come back, especially after a rocky start, confident and relaxed in their breastfeeding journey, thanks to our support.”
Luisa, Peer Supporter
We are also fortunate to have a health visitor (in her own time) and several breastfeeding counsellors volunteering in our sessions.
“I have been a volunteer since October 2018. Supporting and encouraging mothers with breastfeeding is so satisfying when you see a visible change in their body language during the OBS session time. Apart from being a very dynamic process, breastfeeding is also very emotional. So many women doubt their skill level with breastfeeding, and the emotional support they get from OBS helps their self-esteem. This of course gives them the confidence to carry on even if they are finding it difficult. I find it immensely satisfying to have time to offer support and encouragement. The fellow workers at OBS have been so welcoming to me. I can see me wanting to volunteer for a long time yet.”
Vanessa, OBS volunteer, Health Visitor
Our breastfeeding counsellors, some of whom started out as Peer Supporters, are accredited by voluntary mother-to-mother breastfeeding support organisations (La Leche League and Association of Breastfeeding Mothers) and, when not volunteering with us, run their own support meetings, staff telephone helplines, moderate other breastfeeding support groups on social media, and more. Breastfeeding counsellors are well trained to provide active listening and emotional support, to troubleshoot breastfeeding problems and to help you come up with a plan that works for you and your family. They work in consultation with the session facilitator, who is the lead person responsible for each session.
Several of our regular facilitator team started out as volunteer breastfeeding counsellors with the lay organisations and we are keen to offer more volunteer breastfeeding counsellors the chance to develop their skills and knowledge, and become confident in running drop-in sessions. Providing occasional holiday cover for OBS sessions has given opportunities for an growing pool of breastfeeding counsellors to experience the challenges and excitement of running a busy Drop-In. We are always seeking to grow skills and capacity in supporting breastfeeding at every level: among the public, Peer Supporter and breastfeeding counsellor volunteers, and health professionals. We want future generations of Oxfordshire families to have excellent informal, volunteer and professional feeding support readily available in their local communities.
All our volunteers are DBS checked and have safeguarding and Prevent training.
“I have been volunteering with OBS since 2014, when I completed the in-house peer supporter course. Since then, I have gone on to train as a Mother Supporter and a breastfeeding counsellor with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. I have been volunteering at our Friday afternoon session in the various different venues we’ve occupied over the last few years, which has given me incredibly valuable opportunities to develop my skills and gain experience, and the confidence to do what I’ve trained for. I also sometimes provide facilitator cover when needed. I love the friendly, relaxed and supportive atmosphere of an OBS session, and the satisfaction of feeling like I can assist the facilitator in giving our service users the support and information that they need to meet their breastfeeding goals.”
Cath, breastfeeding counsellor volunteer
“I started volunteering at OBS as a peer supporter over two years ago, while training as a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor with La Leche League. Now I volunteer as part of that role and occasionally facilitate a session when the regular team are on holiday. The sessions always provide me with challenges and the chance to develop my skills; I love the variety of people we meet and the opportunity to support parents and babies at different stages of their journeys, whatever their breastfeeding goals, from those with tiny newborns to those with older babies or toddlers considering returning to work. The groups have a lovely, welcoming atmosphere and it’s wonderful to see parents at different stages sharing experiences and empathy with one another”.
Jane, breastfeeding counsellor volunteer
Click to find out more about La Leche League Oxfordshire, La Leche League Great Britain and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers here:
If you’re interested in training as a breastfeeding counsellor, this blog post is a good place to start exploring the options.
Confused about the difference between Peer Supporter, breastfeeding counsellor, health professional and IBCLC? Find out who’s helping you in this handy table from the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain (LCGB).