Starting a breastfeeding support group

Who can start a support group?

Anyone can start a support group: mother, midwife or health visitor. Getting together with another breastfeeding mother or interested person can make it easier to get started. Once you start discussing the idea of setting up a group, you may find other mums are happy to help. You don´t have to be a trained breastfeeding counsellor although it is helpful to a group to have a trained counsellor at meetings. When a new group is established, some members commence ABM training. For more information you can visit our Training with the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers page.

Anyone with an interest in breastfeeding will be welcome at get-togethers. Breastfeeding babies and expectant mums are always welcome.

Advertise in local newspapers, especially free newspapers, maternity units, health centres, surgeries, dentist waiting rooms, playgroups, schools, libraries, chemists. Local radio stations and newspapers are often happy to publicise meetings.

Get to know your local midwives and health visitors. Ask them to put new mums in touch with you. Offer to go along to antenatal talks on breastfeeding or to postnatal group meetings. If you are happy to breastfeed your baby at these meetings, you will be very welcome. Tell mums you meet about your support group. A personal invitation can be very effective. We have all felt isolated and vulnerable at times and an offer to accompany a new mum to her first group meetings is often appreciated. Remember that health professionals are busy people — you may have to be persistent. Don´t let them forget you are there! Keep a pleasant but high profile. Supply posters advertising your meetings and clearly display contact names and numbers.

What does a group do?

There will be support, understanding, encouragement and friendship. Groups can meet at coffee and lunchtimes for discussions, to listen to speakers, for outings and publicity events during National Breastfeeding Week — and to have fun.

Mothers are busy people and meetings held weekly, fortnightly or monthly are acceptable. However, new breastfeeding mums need a lot of contact and encouragement to maintain their confidence with breastfeeding.

Possible costs include advertising, telephoning, leaflets, posters and refreshments. When the group is established, other costs could be hire of premises, postage, photocopying, headed notepaper or buying books and videos.

ABM-affiliated support groups

If an ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor wishes to set up a new breastfeeding group, that group can apply to become ABM-affiliated. If an ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor wishes to offer support to a new group, but cannot attend the group herself, that group’s organiser may apply for ABM-affiliation. The group organiser must be undertaking ABM Breastfeeding Counsellor training and be up to date with her studies. Our insurance providers extend the ABM’s public liability to ABM-affiliated groups, which may advertise themselves as ABM-affiliated and receive an extra copy of our ABM magazine for the group.

How do we fund our group?

Individual groups need to be self-supporting. You may be fortunate to receive a small grant from your local Health Authority or council (their phone numbers will be available in the telephone directory and online). Or you could apply to the National Lottery Charity Board´s small grants scheme.

To keep your running costs down, you could meet in each other´s homes, local health authority premises or a community centre. Friends, family, health professionals and local businesses may be willing to help out with publicity, photocopying and printing. Most groups concentrate on reliable cost effective fundraising methods: raffles, sponsored events, sales of nearly new clothes, toys, books, equipment and maternity wear. Some areas have local charities that fund groups in a neighbourhood or parish. Your local library or parish secretary should be able to help with finding out about this.

Do we need to elect a committee?

No. Although as the group grows, it may be easier to share the responsibilities and use a more formal approach. If you wish to apply for a grant, you will need to have a committee and audited accounts for the previous years (if your group has been in existence that long).