Petition to Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies delivered to Devon County Council
PUBLISHED: 15:15 16 March 2018 | UPDATED: 15:29 16 March 2018
Campaigners calling for the reversal of funding cuts to Exmouth's only breastfeeding support service have taken their fight to Devon County Council.
On Wednesday, March 14, Amy Sweet, from Exmouth, delivered an impassioned speech and petition, signed more than 500 times, to Devon County Council’s full cabinet meeting.
She represented the 400-strong campaign group, ‘Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies’, which formed in February, after the council announced the service would lose funding and become ‘community led’ from April onwards.
Amy told councillors how Bosom Buddies had provided her with ‘a lifeline’ 14 months ago, when she found herself unable to breastfeed her newborn son Walter.
“Feeling helpless and depressed at my inability to breastfeed him, I was ready to give up,” she said.
After seeking advice from other agencies, it was only the leader of Bosom Buddies who was able to solve Amy’s problems and ‘change her life’.
Amy wants to prevent other new mums from feeling the ‘inadequacy, helplessness, loneliness and despair’ she felt when she struggled to breastfeed.
She said: “You are told how much that bond is important – You have the baby thinking ‘right, I’m breast feeding’, but no one ever tells you about the problems.
“When a baby is born you are hormonal and emotional – someone has described it as like being pushed down a black ski slope, blindfolded.”
The council has said with less money at its disposal, it plans to focus resources on East Devon’s most vulnerable children.
But campaigners believe the emphasis should be on ‘giving all babies a fair and healthy start in life regardless of their mother’s socioeconomic status’.
Under the new arrangement Bosom Buddies would lose its paid-for leader and rely solely on volunteer support and assistance from charity Action for Children.
But campaigners believe the consistency of a paid member of staff running the group is vital for it to function.
“There are often weeks when there are no volunteers so I can’t see how it would work without a paid for member of staff,” said Amy.
And the campaign is not just interested in the wellbeing of individual mothers and babies, but aims to have a much wider impact.
“We want to raise awareness that breast feeding mums should be helped.
“I don’t want to see stories in newspapers about women being told to breastfeed in a toilet – It’s raising awareness in the whole of society, not just among women,” she said.
Otter Valley Councillor Claire Wright has spoken out in personal support of the campaign, although the service is outside of her geographical remit.
She said: “When you first have a baby it’s difficult. You want to do the best thing for your child and it’s exhausting if you don’t have the right support.
“I breastfed my baby for the first six months; it was very, very hard and I completely sympathise with anyone who chooses to go down the formula route – it’s tempting to give up.”
With the known health benefits of breastfeeding campaigners say the decision to decrease funding is ‘absolutely baffling’.
A Devon County Council spokesman said: “Local services like this are important, which is why Action for Children and public health nurses are continuing to work with local people in Exmouth to help them ensure that all mothers have access to good quality, timely breastfeeding support.
“We thank Bosom Buddies for presenting us with their petition, and we will be replying to the group shortly.”
The online petition for Save Exmouth Bosom Buddies has now been signed by more than 600 people.
It calls on the council and Government to ‘ensure all mothers have access to good quality, timely breastfeeding support’ and ‘provide funds so local groups can deliver these valued services’.