Here’s what some of their nominations said:
‘They were always at the end of the phone when I needed emotional support.’
‘I would not have continued breastfeeding without their support.’
‘They were always there when I was having a down day and shared so much knowledge with me. I have now trained as a peer supporter because of this team.’
‘All of the team are beyond invaluable. They’ve helped not just with our feeding journey but my sanity at being a new mum and having a baby through the pandemic. They’ve helped so many and don’t get paid and all give up hours of their own time. Every issue or problem I have they’re our first point of call.’
Read their interview below:
BRAS (breastfeeding reassurance and support) was born in 2016 under the name SS17 BRAS when all local breastfeeding support was cut due to funding. Mandie Groves started SS17 BRAS in the summer of 2016. Over the next two years Debs (PS), Gemma (BFC) and Mandie worked hard promoting SS17 BRAS and the time came to turn SS17 BARS to Thurrock BRAS CIC. Jemma and Amy joined us as peer supporters and Jemma went on to train as a BFC. In 2020 we changed our name to Basildon and Thurrock BRAS CIC to cover more of the local area and Kirsty (BFC) and Wendy (BFC) joined us and Mandie stepped down.
During Covid we worked hard to still help parents, with lots of online support, video calls and messages. We also had a virtual ‘preparing to chest and breastfeed’ session once a month. Now we have 3 weekly groups and 1 monthly.
Good breastfeeding support is the ability to listen to the parents, without judgement, giving the parents a safe space to tell you their story. To listen with empathy. To give parents informed choices with evidence based information.
Also cake, biscuits and tea, along with a box of tissues can help…. Haha.
The challenges we face are universal challenges. A lack of basic breastfeeding knowledge from a lot of HCPs, parents being failed by the system and the constant battle to prove ourselves, to show that we are a specialist pathway for the NHS and that we can take some of the strain off their services.
The other challenges we face are finding funding. Finding appropriate, affordable venue hire. also finding, training and maintaining good volunteers.
To keep us motivated we have a good core team, we can debrief with each other and that makes the challenges worth fighting. It’s so important to have a good network of support. We also have extensive wider support within Essex and the surrounding areas.
We also keep fighting for our parents, for the families and babies we see and for a better future.
We are currently training more PS. We really would like a Saturday group for families and their support networks.
We also want to run more groups in the Thurrock area.
Face to face preparing to chest/breastfeed has been talked about, we just need to find a suitable venue.
We would love to have volunteers in the local maternity ward too, but that may be some time yet!
In November 2010, our chair Pam Lacey passed away. Pam had touched the lives of countless families but also encouraged many other women to train and go on to support others with her infectious humour, wisdom and determination.
Pam’s Prize was set up in her memory. It is a way to give recognition to the way volunteer breastfeeding counsellors make a difference to so many families in their time of need. We wanted to celebrate those who go the extra mile as Pam did.