Finding Breastfeeding Support

The New National Breastfeeding Helpline

0300 100 0212

Thousands of women and their families appreciate being able to speak to another mum, at the other end of the telephone, who has experience of breastfeeding and is able to offer information and support. The good news is this has been recognised by the Department of Health and they are providing funding for a National Breastfeeding Helpline. The Breastfeeding Network are pleased to be working alongside the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, to provide this service. Breastfeeding is arguably the single most important public health measure on the planet, and yet so many women in the UK struggle to breastfeed. Access to good support and information is crucial and this is where the helpline comes in to support other services. This service will work alongside services provided by the NHS, in the same way as we work alongside the NHS in Primary Care Trusts and hospitals. Breastfeeding is part of the normal experience of having a baby and not a medical situation. In our experience mum-to-mum support works really well as the volunteers are mums, who have breastfed but who have also undergone training in order to support other mums. Some of the difficulties that women encounter are often social as well as practical. Of course if the volunteer believes that there is a medical cause for concern, a caller would be encouraged to seek medical help.
The project is funded by the Department of Health, through the Section 64 grant scheme.
Calls are diverted to the nearest ABM or BfN volunteer, meaning the 'National' helpline also has a very 'local' feel to it.

How Do I Find a Breastfeeding Counsellor?

Contact details :

The first three telephone numbers below will usually put your call through to local breastfeeding supporters. These are mums in their own home who have successfully fed their own children, and have received extensive training from professionals in helping new mums to BF, and spot problems: they are informed counsellors who will guide and facilitate without making judgements or prescriptions. They may be able, if necessary, to come out and visit you if they live close by, or suggest local meeting and support groups. They can also offer email support and can provide details of training courses to give peer support or become a qualified counsellor, as well as often providing outreach support and training to areas which are not served by active BF support groups.

The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers number quoted is a centralised helpline, offering the same sort of phone support, plus email and so on too.

Breastfeeding Network 0300 100 0210
(Bengali / Sylheti Supporterline 0300 456 2421)

NCT BF supporter line 0300 33 00 771

La Leche League 0845 120 2918

Assoc of BF Mothers 020 7813 1481


Another organisation worth looking at is the Baby Cafes which are growing in popularity. You can find your nearest Baby Cafe here

This website has details of support groups throughout the UK, and is frequently updated.

Of course remember that if you live in a Baby Friendly Accredited area, or are lucky in getting one who has a special interest in breastfeeding, then your Health Visitor or Midwife will be able to give you support, help, advice and information about breastfeeding, too.

See also this information from about the different titles held by those who are offering support, and what they mean:

1. Peer Supporter : also called: Breastfeeding Peer Counsellor, Peer Counsellor, Peer Helpers, Mother Supporter, Breastfeeding Buddy.

These are mums who have breastfed their own baby (usually no criteria as to how long) and want to support other mums. Peer supporters by definition aim to protect and promote breastfeeding within their local area, relating to mums from a similar culture. They provide information which encourages mums to make educated decisions about their personal feeding choices and reach their goals. Peer supporters draw on their personal experience, combined with a course of up to 10 weeks long (depending on the organisation) which covers a wide range of topics from social and economic issues to anatomy, counselling skills and understanding baby's needs from infancy to toddlerhood.

A peer supporter shouldn't be offering problem solving or counselling; their role is to give you support as a ‘well informed friend', and will be able to point you in the right direction if you need more specialist help. Most organisations are very clear that their supporters are not insured to solve problems and clearly define what is within the remit of these mums.

This is the main group the NHS is using to provide local breastfeeding support workers. Imagine going to the hospital with a broken arm and not seeing a specialist, but being referred to someone who broke their arm last year to deal with it!

2. Breastfeeding Counsellor: also called: La Leche League Leader, Breastfeeding Consultant, Breastfeeding Supporter.

These are mums or health professionals who in addition to completing the above training have breastfed their own baby for at least 6-9 months at the point of application (depending upon organisation). This includes exclusively breastfeeding until there was a nutritional need for other foods (i.e., about the middle of the first year for the healthy, full-term baby).

Exact requirements vary from organisation to organisation but for example the LLL state if baby has weaned, it's important the baby was nursed for about a year at least, and the transition from breastfeeding respected the baby's needs.

A counsellor undergoes 2-3 years part time training, Many then continue to work in a voluntary capacity, both in local areas running support groups, manning national help lines, occasionally on the hospital ward or teaching peer supporters.

Training includes the following:
•Anatomy & Physiology
•Positioning & attachment
•Expressing & store of expressed breastmilk
•Breastfeeding and returning to work
•Why and how can employers support employed breastfeeding mothers
•Twins & multiple births
•Weaning & night feeding/weaning
•Introduction of solid foods
•Breastfeeding after Cesarean Section
•Ethics & confidentiality
•Counselling & listening skills including boundaries and reflective practice
•Leading a support group
•Premature babies
•Baby blues & PND
•Newborn behaviour and development
•Feeding patterns
•Crying, colic, reflux & sleep
•Medications & milk
•Problems e.g. anterior and posterior tongue tie/thick labial frenum, insufficient weight gain,
thrush, mastitis, nipple trauma, jaundice, high arched palate/bubble palate, inverted nipples,
constant feeding, unsettled infant, breastfed baby.
•Nutrition for the breastfeeding mother
•Special Circumstance eg Downs Syndrome, poor muscle tone etc
•Political and social issues surrounding breastfeeding
•Social & Environmental impact of breastfeeding
•Breastfeeding an older baby/infant & weaning
•Breastfed baby and allergies/intolerances
•Health impact of breastfeeding & risks of artificial feeding practices and milk.

3. Lactation Consultant: The term lactation consultant loosely refers to anyone who is working in the field of lactation, either as a volunteer or as a professional, but only the letters IBCLC after an individual's name identifies that person with a recognized standard of independently measured competency in lactation.

A certified lactation consultant has met the strict criteria to apply for and passed, the examination set by the International Board of Lactation Consultants Examiners (IBLCE). “The IBLCE's mission statement is to certify, by means of an internationally recognised examination, individuals who demonstrate their competence to practice as International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, providing quality care to babies and mothers world-wide” (ICLA 1995).

Periodic re-certification is mandated by the IBLCE thus ensuring continuing competence and up-to-date information. Only successful candidates may use the title ‘International Board Certified Lactation Consultant'.

Lactation consultants may be mothers who have trained as breastfeeding counsellors and served extensively as a counsellor or midwives/doctors who also have extensive experience supporting mothers - both must have undertaken further study.

Many IBCLC's are employed in the field of clinical lactation, work in hospitals, providing training to others i.e. midwives and other supporters and breastfeeding preparation classes. They may also run support groups and or offer private practice to support mothers (sometimes for a fee, so always check)

If you need help in hospital, ask for their Infant Feeding Coordinator and then check they are an IBCLC (or well on the way) once in the community, check titles and remember anyone who is qualified will have the appropriate badge/certificate to show you - if in doubt ASK.

Charlotte Young