"My journey so far with Sure Start"

About: King's Mill Hospital Mansfield & Ashfield

(as a volunteer/advocate),

My journey with started 5 years ago. I was 19 and was a career for my brother and sister. My mum put my name on the volunteers course. I didn't have a clue what sure start was all about. I completed my volunteers course and did a bit of volunteering but I decided not to do any more after a month of doing it as I just felt like I didn't fit in because I was young.

A few months later I fell pregnant, still living with my mum and four younger brothers and sisters. Life was pretty hard at that time.

When my midwife came to see me at 10 weeks pregnant and asked me how I was going to feed my baby I replied breast feeding is for older mums, I'm bottle feeding. At 30-32 weeks pregnant something clicked and I decided I was going to try and breast feed. I told my midwife and she just gave me a DVD to watch and nothing else was said about breast feeding. At 36 weeks I went to antenatal class, I was the youngest one there and felt really uncomfortable so I didn't attend the next 3.

By the time my son was 6 weeks old, I was really struggling with breast feeding, my baby wasn't sleeping and all he did all day and night was cry. I felt so alone and I had lack of support. Living with my mum was getting harder too.

My midwife put me in contact with a breast feeding peer supporter and she met me before I went into the breast feeding group at the summer house. The peer supporters made feel very welcoming. There were all mature older mums that attended the group and I felt very lonely while I was in the group, as they talked about meeting up with each other and their husbands and going on expensive shopping trips. I felt like they looked down on me for being so young, there were a few comments made about people being on benefits etc., if I wasn't so stubborn then I would have not attended the group again.

At 8 weeks, I had a home visit from a family health and support worker called Nina, who explained that she would support me through breast feeding and other obstacles that I was facing. I had the support for just over a year and if it wasn't for her I would have stopped breast feeding and not be as strong as I am now. When I felt really low or needed cry I knew Nina was just a phone call away.

When my little boy was 18 months old, I stopped feeding him myself and started a breast feeding peer support course. I wanted to do the course because I wanted to see younger mums like me breastfeed. It's been 2 years now since I did my breastfeeding support course and I have gone on to do other things. Jayne Gorewoda gave me the confidence boost I needed and enrolled me on the nvq level 3 child care. Working along side her a lot has made realise that she does a fantastic job and I now want to become a community development worker. Life is still hard as I volunteer all day most days, I look after my son and I am a career for my brothers and sister and 1 of my sisters is Autistic, so she is very challenging at times but with all the incredible support that I receive from Jayne and the team, it makes life a little easier.

I would like to see more support groups for the younger parents because they do get treated different by older parents. I see it happen in groups and it's still happening to me now. There are a lot of young parents in the community and I often ask my self why they aren't attending the Sure Start groups. I think it would be nice for more support from Sure Start during pregnancy. As a volunteer, I think it would be nice to see volunteers across the Ashfield district, they all do a fantastic job and it would be nice to meet them.

I am very proud to be a Sure start volunteer and work with fantastic staff. You have a brilliant bunch of staff members at Kirkby that inspire me so much.


Response from Jenny Newman, Digital Health Project Manager, Health Partnerships, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

picture of Jenny Newman

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. We really do appreciate all feedback and your story is so moving, we can all learn a lot from it. I will pass your comments onto the services who will get back to you with a further response.

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Response from Karon Foulkes, General Manager, Children and Young People, Health Partnerships We are preparing to make a change

picture of Karon Foulkes

What a great story you have to share. I was so pleased to read about the impact that working with Nina had on your confidence to breastfeed and about how Jayne has supported you into training and volunteering. Your commitment to volunteering is outstanding and I am sure the centre is benefitting from your expertise as a young parents and as carer of your sister. You will be pleased to know we do have volunteers throughout Ashfield District. I am really proud both of the number of active volunteers we have (over 130) and of the range of contributions they make to the success of Sure Start Childrens Centres. We also work closely with colleges to offer work experience and course input for a number of 14-17 year olds so they can learn about parenting, benefits of breastfeeding and working with children before they are parents.

I can see there are areas that we can improve on as well.

In terms of antenatal support for young parents, County Health Partnerships who are our employers, are running the Family Nurse Partnership programme for all first time pregnant teenagers from January next year. This will offer individual support on a regular basis from early pregnancy to 2 years. The FNP staff will be working closely with the Childrens Centres to link in the parents to relevant services.

Even with this change there will be some gaps as you describe for young parents –second time parents and those over 19 years. Working with young parents presents us with a range of challenges. We have surveyed many of our young parents over the years to find out how best to meet their needs. Some wanted groups specifically for them and others want existing groups to be more young parent friendly to reduce the feelings you experienced. In response to this we have tried to run groups for teenage and young parents. We did have some success with a group that started in Newstead 18 months ago but the parents grew older and were encouraged to move onto other services. We tried to set up young parents groups in Sutton and New Woods areas in the past year or so but either none or 1 parent turned up despite phone calls and encouragement from staff and other agencies.

As our partnership work with FNP develops, we will be able to set up groups for young parents and they will get that individual support to enable them to identify what they would like from getting together with other young parents, and so the opportunities for young parents to meet, socialise and learn will grow. If you have other suggestions please drop me an email or pass on the information through Jayne.

I wish you all the best in your continuing journey with Sure Start

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Update posted by Xsmithx (a volunteer/advocate)

Thank you so much for the fantastic response. I'm so grateful that you have taken my comments on board.

It's brilliant with how many active volunteers that Sure Start have across the district. Sure Start help, support and advise that many families, it's incredible.

I'm really keen on working with younger parents. I hope one day that we could go into secondary schools to raise awareness of breastfeeding and more about Sure Start. I know for me it was never mentioned at school. I volunteer because it's my way of thanking Sure Start for the amazing support I received.

Thank you again.

Response from King's Mill Hospital

Thank you for your message. We have forwarded your comments to Notss County Council for them to pass on to the Sure Start service. We have also copied your message to our midwifery team for information.

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