Professionalisation of a Breastfeeding Peer Support Service: Insights and Experiences of Peer Supporters

Aiken, Annette and Thomson, Gillian orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-3392-8182 (2013) Professionalisation of a Breastfeeding Peer Support Service: Insights and Experiences of Peer Supporters. Midwifery, 29 (12). pp. 145-151.

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to describe the issues faced by breast-feeding peer supporters as their roles altered from a voluntary to a professionalised role with targets, accountability and more formalised interface with health professionals.
a descriptive qualitative study utilising group and individual semi-structured interviews, with thematic network analysis.
19 breast-feeding peer supporters were consulted from one peer support service located in the UK.
thematic network analysis of the peer supporter data generated a global theme of 'Professionalising Breast-feeding Peer Support'. The three underpinning organising themes (and their associated basic themes): 'visibility and communication', 'guardianship of knowledge' and 'roles and boundaries' revealed the early and transitional tensions and anxieties that peer supporters faced when their role altered from a voluntary position to a formal model of service delivery, particularly within the clinical environment.
professionalisation of peer support can lead to benefits in terms of providing a standardised and comprehensive service with increased capacity for service provision. However, the transitional difficulties faced by the peer supporters as they moved from a voluntary into a professionalised role included a lack of identity; restricted time to care for new mothers; pressures and anxieties of meeting targets and accountability of case recording and the hostility and gatekeeping practices experienced amongst some of the health professionals. Flexible systems incorporating service-user involvement and needs-led strategies may help to overcome these issues.

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