The benefits of breastfeeding are widely known, but for little Alessio they were literally a lifesaver.
Born 11 weeks early, Alessio weighed a tiny 1lb 13.5oz – less than a bag of sugar. Although mum Jo Williams, aged 38, from Gorse Hill, always intended to breastfeed her baby, it in fact proved crucial to Alessio’s survival.
She said: “The doctors and midwives stressed how important it was – he needed the milk so desperately, both for improving his weight and building his immune system. Of course I didn’t hesitate – it was the one thing I could give to him, fed through a syringe, as he lay in an incubator.”
Alessio made great progress and after two months he was allowed home from the Great Western Hospital.
Jo said: “Although he was still on oxygen for eight months, I was able to exclusively breastfeed, without supplementing with formula, long before that. I’m convinced it helped save his life – when I tell people how small he was born, no one can believe me because he’s absolutely thriving like any little boy now and has scarcely even had a cold.”
In the first few months Jo called on the expertise and support of Elena Rossi, who has worked locally as a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) breastfeeding counsellor for 10 years.
Jo, who is now expecting her second baby with partner Giuseppe, said: “Elena was so helpful, not just from a practical but also an emotional perspective. I can’t thank her enough and of course plan to breastfeed Alessio’s new brother or sister.”
Jo has also joined her local Breastmates support group and went on to become a peer supporter so she can help other mums in similar situations.
She said: “I saw how important it was and what a massive difference it makes to have that shoulder to cry on and someone giving you a cup of tea if you’re having a tough day. I’m so glad I stuck with it and it’s wonderful to be able to share my tips and experience with fellow mums.”
Jo is sharing her experience during World Breastfeeding Week to help raise awareness of the benefits and also promote the annual Big Latch On event, open to all breastfeeding mums, being held on Saturday, 6th August, from 10am until midday at Tesco Extra, in Ocotal Way.
There is lots of evidence that breastfeeding is a healthy way to feed babies as it provides them with protection from infections and illnesses, ranging from stomach upsets to asthma. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce mums’ risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. More information about the advantages is available at www.nhs.uk/breastfeeding
Cllr Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, said: “Jo’s moving story shows just what a difference breast milk can make to a baby’s life. I’m thrilled her experience has such a happy ending and I hope it encourages others to consider this and also feel comfortable asking for help. We’re very lucky to have such a wonderful network with Breastmates, which all mums can call on at any time for free information, advice and support.”
Swindon’s free Breastmates support service aims to help mums who need practical advice and emotional support at what can be a very tiring and stressful time. There are four active groups with dozens of volunteers and peer supporters which meet regularly, in addition to two National Childbirth Trust breastfeeding counsellors on hand to provide individual support and also online information and guidance via the popular Facebook group www.facebook.com/swindonbreastmates