A woman who is about to become one of ten newly qualified breastfeeding counsellors in Donegal is encouraging pregnant woman to seek support on breastfeeding before they give birth.
Helen Hancock from Derry moved to Donegal nine years ago and gave birth to her first child here in 2009.
As a new mother, Helen had a difficult time breastfeeding her daughter until help arrived from a lactation nurse in Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.
“She spent 10 minutes with me and then my daughter and I got on the right track and that was the beginning of a beautiful journey of feeding and learning together. That day when the lactation nurse arrived, she offered me something nobody else was able to for three days. She offered me support in an informed and knowledgeable way,” she said.
That experience has inspired Helen to try to help other women here who might have similar experiences. “Ireland is statistically one of the lowest countries in the world for breastfeeding. Donegal is the lowest in the country.”
In 2012 she saw an opportunity to become a breastfeeding peer support in Donegal and jumped at the chance to learn more. “It was amazing. I loved the information I was getting. I started seeing how support could make such a massive difference to how a mother goes into parenthood. Not just through breastfeeding, but also through just being listened to. Having someone there who gets her.”
She started Cuidiu breastfeeding counselling training in February 2014 and will be qualified next month. “I can’t wait to wear my badge with pride,” she said.
Helen describes her learning as life changing. “It has made such a positive impact on my life. I never really knew what my calling was until now. I love working with babies and supporting families. It is about families too. Not just about mum.”
She also trained to become a Certified Infant Massage Instructor in July 2014. Helen has just started her own business called Cothu, meaning nurture in Irish, which is offering baby massage classes and toddler yoga classes throughout the county.
“I plan to teach in Donegal town to Limavady and everywhere in between,” she said. Helen offers breastfeeding support in Donegal Women’s Centre in Letterkenny on Wednesday mornings from 10am – 12 noon. “This is non profit. We volunteer our time. Some people might think we get paid to offer breastfeeding support. But we don’t. We do this because we want to help and make your journey as easy as possible.”
Helen has a Facebook page called Cothu, offering information and support for families.