One determined Derry woman may yet prove the catalyst for improving breastfeeding rates in the county in Ireland with the lowest number of breastfeeding mums.
Helen Hancock is a mother of two children. Lily, aged six, and George, who is now four.
Originally from Prehen, but now living in Raphoe in Donegal, Helen’s own experience with breastfeeding led to her wanting to help other mothers. That desire has now seen her become an entrepreneur, as she travels the length and breadth of the North West, offering parents support in breastfeeding, baby massage and baby yoga.
Looking back on her own experience with breastfeeding, Helen recalls:
“I found the information available to me was so conflicting and I just didn’t know which was the best approach to take with birthing our baby, feeding our baby and caring for our baby.”
Feeding was “hell” to begin with, says Helen.
“Lily lost so much weight and I felt useless. Like I was failing her. My body was producing milk, but my baby just wouldn’t take it. After three days of struggling with breastfeeding an incredible lady walked into the post natal ward in Altnagelvin. She spent ten 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.”
For Helen, being offered the right information by someone who had knowledge in the area was key. When her son George was born in 2011, she persevered with breastfeeding once again, but it was far from ideal.
“It was so tough. I just couldn’t work out how it was natural or normal,” she says.
That’s why, in 2012, when she saw an opportunity to become a breastfeeding peers support, Helen jumped at the chance.
“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. I started my Cuidiu breastfeeding counselling training in February 2014. I will be qualified in April 2016. I can’t wait to wear my badge with pride,” she says.
Now affectionately described as the ‘baby lady,’ Helen describes her learning as having been life changing.
“It has made such a positive impact on my life. I never really knew what my calling was until now,” she adds.
Helen trained to become a Certified Infant Massage Instructor in 2014. “I wanted to be able to offer
support beyond breastfeeding,” she says.“I am always so delighted to see the results the massage offers. It is such a simple process, but so effective. It can change how a baby feels in moments, just through nurturing touch. Wind and Colic is something you hear about daily when you are around new mothers. Using specific strokes through massage and teaching feeding techniques for breast and bottle fed babies can change the symptoms very quickly.”
Now taking her expertise around the entire North West, Helen has started an active online community called Cothu, which translates from Irish as ‘nurture.’
“I plan to teach in Donegal Town to Limavady and everywhere in between!” she says.
Helen will be on hand at the Baby Fair in the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny, on Sunday coming from 1pm-5pm. For more information on classes visit the Cothu Facebook page or telephone 00353858237876.