A Crawley woman has set up a private support service for mothers to help them breastfeed and making them feel ‘empowered’.
Private breastfeeding councillor Alexis Ozmen, 37, offers ante and postnatal support, called The Nest, to mothers in the comfort of their own homes across Surrey, Sussex and South and North London to mothers who have trouble bonding with their child.
Alexis, from Crawley, set up the clinic in February 2015 after working at East Surrey Hospital for three and a half years and has built a sound reputation for the services she offers.
She said: “Going private I could offer more realistic care package and offer consistency.”
She added: “It was quite attractive for a family to have someone at their home rather than going to somewhere, which in the postnatal period is quite crucial.
“Having someone come to your home and help you with such a personal thing changes the dynamic a little bit, I just wanted to give it a go so I took the great step.”
Alexis is contacted by mothers who recently gave birth and who either have experienced problems during breastfeeding, or have previously used other similar services that were difficult to access. Through her appointments she gives support and advice to mothers and their partners, offering ‘very intimate support’ to all sorts couples, including surrogate mothers and same-sex couples.
Alexis started training in 2006 as a breastfeeding counsellor, six months after her first daughter was born.
Despite her growing success, Alexis recalls how difficult to take that first step. Having done much volunteering as breastfeeding councillor for most of her training, going private meant she had to take on a different mind set.
She said: “I had to get my head around charging for skills that are largely seen in our society as something that should be given voluntarily. It’s not always seen as the specialism that it is.”
She added: “A lot of people who think you are a supporter of women you should do it voluntarily.
“I think when we assume that this kind of thing should be given voluntarily paid for, I wonder whether it devalues it for the women that use it? It needs to be given a value and the specialists who work within it have a value.”
She explained that free drop-in services were struggling due to a lack of funding as well as staff shortage. Most of the staff provide breastfeeding counselling as a voluntary service to women and have to work under ‘pressure’.
She said: “It would be wonderful if we had lots services that are free at the point of use for the users but was sustainable and secure.
“They wouldn’t be worried that the funding was going to be pulled in.
“We know the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of not, I don’t think we can afford not to support women to breastfeed their children.”
She also said that the services vary depending where people live and the services that are on offer. “Another reason why I wanted to go private was consistency, I can visit anyone no matter where they live.”
Going private has had a great impact on Alexis’ development as a breastfeeding counsellor, her network of clients grew through word of mouth and recommendation through her website.
And, through her free drop-in sessions, it is clear that there is great interest in her services. At a recent drop-in session at the Serendipity Café Co in High Street, Horley ten mums came along with their babies ranging from three weeks to eight months.
She said: “I think the feedback I get is lovely, the main feedback I get is being able to be supported in your home is what sometimes can make a difference.”
Alexis is planning to make her drop-in sessions a regular event and, depending on the turnout, could be potentially looking at a more permanent venue.
She said she was very grateful for the café owners Faye and Paul Burgess for offering a venue for her meeting.
The next drop-in session will be at the there on Tuesday March 15. Visit thenest.support for more information and prices.