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Our Volunteers' stories

Volunteers are the heart and soul of the Australian Breastfeeding Association. The work ABA does supporting mothers to achieve their breastfeeding goals is mostly carried out by more than 1200 volunteers, across Australia. Our volunteers donate their weekdays, weeknights and weekends to be available to provide information and support to other mums - on our Breastfeeding Helpline, ABA LiveChat, run Breastfeeding Education Classes and local group meetings. We are immensely grateful for the dedication, knowledge and commitment of each and every one of our amazing volunteers!  We thank you. 

Volunteer Amanda

Amanda, Community Educator, NSW

I live in the beautiful area of Lake Macquarie, NSW with my husband, my two boys aged 3 and 1 and our dog. On weekends we love to spend time at local parks or going for bush walks where the boys can get some energy out and the 3-year-old can find all new treasures to tell us about.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I started off in a group helper capacity, doing odd jobs here and there for the group. Since then I completed my training and became a community educator. This means I have regular shifts on LiveChat. My training took me about 2 years and during this time I added some regional and national roles to my volunteering ‘repertoire’. There are so many areas of ABA to get involved in and utilise existing skills, or develop new ones.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

Coming from an ABA family, I started volunteering soon after my first child was born. I mostly wanted to volunteer as a way of feeling like I was still ‘contributing’ to something out of my own home. I continued after returning to work because ABA is an organisation that fits in with my values and ethos around parenting. It is also a commitment that fits in well with my family life and the various demands on my time as a working mother of two young kids.

What do you love about ABA?

I love the non-judgemental and holistic nature of the ABA. We really do ‘meet the mother where she is at’ while focussing energy on ‘big picture’ goals such as educating health professionals and the community and working to change the societal support that a mother who breastfeeds receives. I am passionate about women’s rights to make informed choices over their bodies. ABA works towards creating an environment within Australia that supports that. I also love how understanding and respectful everyone is. Volunteering with ABA fits very well into my life as a mum, and everyone is so supportive if my plans need to change.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

There are so many as a volunteer. My favourites are when a mother accesses our services highly distressed and focussed on one issue or concern. However, through conversation we cover many topics and they leave calmer, with more strategies and feeling more in control. My favourite moment though was when I was preparing to return to work after my first. I had in my head that this meant weaning, or at least mixed-feeding. Through talking to a counsellor at my local group I came to realise that continuing to breastfeed while working was not only possible, but with some preparation very doable. This allowed me to maintain my breastfeeding connection with him for 10 months while working, and to maintain breastfeeding until he was 18 months and we were both ready to wean.

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

That every stage passes. My mother would often tell me about her first time breastfeeding and that she was about to stop when, at 6 weeks, everything ‘clicked’. This put in my head that every breastfeeding or parenting challenge had a time limit and we just needed to ride it out. With enough support, the vast majority of challenges pass with time. I like this because it can be applied to breastfeeding, parenting, and life in general.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Get informed, do your research and don’t have a plan B. If you really want to breastfeed, it can be too tempting to use a substitute at 2 am if you are trying to get your baby to latch and you have formula in the cupboard (I know this because I had a moment with my second! Thankfully the moment passed with the support of my husband and sister-inlaw). Without an alternative, you can use the information from your research to get you through the immediate challenge until you and baby are less stressed. Failing that, ring the Breastfeeding Helpline. They are there 24/7 and sometimes you really need that listening and non-judgemental ear. This all helps to make informed decisions that aren’t based on short-lived emotions.


 

Volunteer Sarah A

Sarah, Breastfeeding Counsellor and Group Leader, QLD

Hi, I’m Sarah and I was born, raised and still live in Kingaroy, Queensland. I live with my husband James, our two children Thomas (8) and Claire (5) and our dog Narlah (1). I’m currently not working and I’m looking to study something after Claire gets settled at school next year. I’m not sure what that something will be just yet.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am the Group Leader for the Kingaroy Group, and I am a breastfeeding counsellor. I do a regular shift on the Breastfeeding Helpline, 2 hours every 1st, 3rd and 5th Tuesday of the month. I’m also working on building and maintaining a relationship with our local child health nurses and attending some drop-in clinics every month. 

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I got involved with ABA after I came along to my first meeting in December 2012. My Mum, Sue Maynard, who was a counsellor in the late 1980s to early 2000s, gifted me a membership. Mum gained so much from NMAA. I knew ABA would be great for me too. So, I came to my first meeting, knowing that I wanted to assist in any way I could and hopefully become a counsellor and help others. When Tom turned 6 months, I signed up to train and was also given the job of treasurer.

What do you love about ABA?

I love the connections we make with the mothers and the bond that we have with each other as volunteers. The great friendships that are formed at ABA meetings will be some of my strongest friendships. I also loved how we’d all bring food along to the meetings and have a delicious grazing table every week. It was always fun to see what everyone had brought.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

I helped a Mum at one of our local group meetings. She was having trouble with nipple pain and it seemed to be related to hot and cold. Normally I’d be instantly dumb struck at a question like this and not be able to recall any information about breastfeeding. But by some miracle, I’d just read something about vasospasm and thought that could be it. We discussed it a bit more and I encouraged her to see a lactation consultant. A week or so later she got back to me and said that it was vasospasm and the LC was helping her cope with it and continue to breastfeed. I suppose this conversation made me realise that I can remember some breastfeeding information, which is something I struggle with. I doubted I’d even be a good counsellor because my memory is so bad for facts (unless it’s spotting actors in various television and movies). But this gave me a bit of confidence in myself.

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

The days are long, but the years are short. I don’t know where I heard this, but it was probably from someone wise at my first Branch Conference.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Don’t worry about how far you’ll get with breastfeeding. 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years or more. You have so much to be proud of no matter how long you’ve breastfed your baby for the simple fact that you tried, and you did it for them.

Also, have you heard about the Australian Breastfeeding Association? They’re pretty cool. Just saying.


 

Volunteer Andrea

Andrea - Co-Group Leader of Canberra Group, ACTNSW

I live in Canberra with my husband, our two sons, Finn (aged 12) and Timmy (aged 10), our puppy Spartacus and our bunny Spot.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I’m a breastfeeding counsellor. I also have two official roles: Co-Group Leader of Canberra Group and Breast Pump Hire Officer. I’ve also hosted a couple of ABA’s podcast episodes.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I signed up to train as a breastfeeding counsellor when my youngest was about 6 months old. I wanted to do volunteer work that was meaningful and skilled. I was also hugely irritated by misinformation about breastfeeding and wanted to learn and share evidence-based information.

What do you love about ABA?

I love that the ABA keeps putting one foot in front of the other. We as an organisation adapt and change and keep striving towards the goal of supporting breastfeeding as well as we possibly can.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

I love meeting older mums who have been with ABA for decades. It’s a great honour to meet them! I really loved meeting Mary Paton, our Founder, at an event in Canberra recently.

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

‘Accept all offers of help’ (An ABA breastfeeding counsellor.)

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

‘Accept all offers of help’ and ‘Enjoy your lovely baby’! 


Bree - Breastfeeding Counsellor, WA

My family has lived in various parts of the Kimberley, Western Australia for 8 years while I was working as an emergency nurse and my husband as a doctor with the Royal Flying Doctors. Our new home is now on the other side of Western Australia in Dunsborough, and we have two little rug rats, Flynn (5) and Penelope (3). I think the Kimberley will always hold a special place in our hearts but we are loving this next adventure.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a breastfeeding counsellor.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I made the decision to enrol in the training to become a breastfeeding counsellor when Penny was a few weeks old in 2018. Having had both my children in remote towns, I cherished the support I received from ABA. It made me want to give something back and provide a virtual village to those who don’t have access to face-to-face support.

What do you love about ABA?

Unconditional support wherever a mum is on her journey.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

Meeting an ABA counsellor and fellow trainee in Broome after having started my learning and meetings remotely. I admired how she managed being a mum, as well as working and volunteering, with a sense of humour and kindness. Then there was Lynn Ng from Melbourne who got me over the finish line of my training. She’s my hero and someone I look up to as an ABA volunteer.

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

Sleep when the baby sleeps. I think I may be one of the very few mothers that took on that advice from older generations as it can be quite unrealistic. However, safe to say I nailed it. I loved a short-and-sweet day sleep! ‘Nanna naps’ are my passion, along with breastfeeding.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

You do you and the ABA is here to support you wherever you are on your journey.


 

 Volunteer Clare
Clare - Group Leader, NSW

My name is Clare. I’ve been married to Rod since 1992, and we have 5 children (Andrew 27, Stephanie 25, David 22, Genevieve 19 and Danny 10). We live in Sydney, but I was originally a country girl, growing up in Tamworth.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

My current roles are group leader of Strathfield, breast pump hire officer, treasurer, trainer, assessor and learning progress support officer.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I joined ABA (NMAA) in 1994. My early weeks of breastfeeding had been really awful (cracked and bleeding nipples, thrush infection, oversupply and complications after a c-section), but my baby was thriving. My first contact with ABA was calling to ask about breast pump hire when my baby was 2 months old. After a short counselling session, I ended up with a group bulletin instead of a pump.

I went to my first ABA meeting the next week. On the way I got lost, my baby was screaming in the hot car, I was nervous. I almost turned around and went home, but luckily I made it, and I kept going back. I volunteered to be group treasurer in 1995 (26 years and counting), and decided to train as a counsellor in 1997 with a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. I qualified in 1998 and took on the role of breast pump hire officer (23 years and counting). My third baby arrived in 1998. He was diagnosed with biliary atresia and spent 19 weeks in hospital. I lived at the hospital and expressed a lot. He had a liver transplant then spent another 3 months in isolation. Finally, we made it to an ABA meeting in 1999, where I volunteered to be group leader of Strathfield Group. In 2001 I handed the role over when I had my fourth child, and I became a trainer and assessor. In 2011 I had baby number 5 and took on group leader again (10 years and counting now).

What do you love about ABA?

ABA is full of good people. It’s about real life every day and it makes a difference.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

I remember a call late at night from a mother in a remote location suffering painful engorgement and blockages. She was an hour’s drive from medical care and at her wit’s end. We talked about white spots and ways to clear them. She started doing these things during the call, and I still remember her joy as she cleared the blockage and milk started to spray from her breast. Best feedback ever.

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

The best advice I’ve received was not in words, but through actions. My mum had nine children and she was a constant example of service and love. Kindness, gentleness, faith, strength and resilience underpinned her mothering.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Trust your instincts. Be gentle with yourself. Take as long as you need to learn how to mother your child. Join ABA.


 

Volunteer Wynta

Wynta - Breastfeeding Counsellor, TAS

Still high on ABA reaching the important milestone of receiving its millionth call on the National Breastfeeding Helpline last month, we interviewed Wynta who recently became accredited and has been taking calls on the Breastfeeding Helpline since February this year.

Why do you volunteer your time?

I love the idea that I may be a positive part of someone’s breastfeeding or parenting journey. I know from experience how much of a difference some empathy and support can make, especially as a first-time parent. I am especially proud to be part of the ABA community knowing it is a free resource available to anyone in Australia!

Tell us about a memorable time on the Breastfeeding Helpline. Is there a particular shift/call that stands out?

There have been many memorable calls but the ones that come to mind most often are when a mother will say, ‘It feels so good to talk to someone about this’. It’s such a clear reminder of how many parents there are who are just in need of a warm chat and validation about how they’re feeling. 


 

Volunteer Bronwyn

Bronwyn - Breastfeeding Counsellor, NSW (ACTNSW Branch)

In honour of ABA reaching an important milestone in May 2021 with the National Breastfeeding Helpline receiving its millionth call, we interviewed Bronwyn, a breastfeeding counsellor who has been taking calls on the Breastfeeding Helpline since 2003.

What do you love about volunteering on the Breastfeeding Helpline?

I love being able to support mothers and to be able to give them the support and information that they need to either get through the night so they can get more help if needed, in the morning when more is open or when they are able to think more clearly, or to give them information so that they can make the right decision for their breastfeeding and mothering experience.

I love when I get a dad or a grandmother calling as I know that the mum has an amazing person next to her ready to support her in any way she needs. I also love normalising breastfeeding amongst my own children. During the school holidays when I get a call the kids yell out, ‘Mum, do you want to do breastfeeding?’ It’s our life and they are learning all about it.

Tell us about a memorable time on the Breastfeeding Helpline. Is there a particular shift/call that stands out?

I don’t have one in particular call that stands out, but I do enjoy the night shifts. Being able to be there to listen to a mother who feels everything they are doing is wrong and being able to reassure her that she is the expert for her child, and to give her the confidence to continue. When you finish a call like that it makes everything feel worth it and you don’t mind the break in your sleep.

 


 

Karen La, community educator

Karen - Community Educator, Booroondara Group (Vic)

My name is Karen from Boroondara Group in Victoria. I am a pharmacist working in community and hospital pharmacy as well as at a government level. I live with my partner, Justin, two cats, Monty and Amy, and six fish.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a Community Educator (just qualified during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020) and have committed to helping with weekly evening LiveChat shifts. I have also particularly enjoyed volunteering at some local group catch-ups, particularly the online Zoom meetings, the Melbourne Babies and Children’s Expos and helping to work on content for ABA’s mum2mum app.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I have been an ABA member since 2016. My mum hadn’t been able to successfully breastfeed her children, so I was determined to look into what I could do to help the community in this area. I quickly realised that as a health professional, I didn’t know enough about how to support babies, parents, and their families in their breastfeeding journey. So, I enrolled to train to be a community educator, and the information that I have learned in the process has been invaluable in my day-to-day profession. It didn’t take me long before I realised how much I enjoyed being able to help ABA support breastfeeding parents and babies. I started training midway through 2017 and finally qualified in the middle of 2020.

What do you love about ABA?

The thing that I love most about ABA is the kindness of the ABA community and the feeling of community spirit. It didn’t matter whether I was a few kilometres away or several thousand kilometres away, there was always someone there who made me feel supported, respected and appreciated. I’ve even received a lovely much-needed card from Kirsty-Anne in Katherine in the Northern Territory to express her support for the volunteers caught in the Great Melbourne Lockdown. I love being able to reach out to our ABA members and community to share with them the same kind of encouragement and reassurance as I have been shown.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

I remember a particularly busy LiveChat shift where we were inundated with queries from so many mothers. That evening had been such a blur that I hadn’t even noticed how many people I had spoken to across the entire shift. Closer to the end of the shift, a mother who I had just spoken to earlier had come back online just to tell me that she really appreciated my help and had left a donation for ABA to help support us in our ongoing work. It was such a surprise as I didn’t expect such busy mums to log back on just to say thank you. I truly felt that I was able to make a difference to someone.

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

The best piece of advice I have ever received was from my mum. She’s always said to me to ‘be flexible and take it easy. Sometimes just going with the flow is the solution to your problems’. This advice comes in really handy when I’m under all kinds of stress that originate from all different facets of my life.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Have pragmatic goals. It’s okay to be doing what works best for you and your baby at that point in time. Feel free to seek out ABA whenever you need to for information, support or even just a chat. We're here for you. And you are doing a great job.

 


 

Kirsten

Kirsten - Community Educator, Group Leader and Regional Rep

I live in the Adelaide Hills with my husband Matt and our children Ed (11) and Ailie (7).

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I’m a Community Educator and Group Leader for my local Mt Lofty District Group and Regional Rep for the Hills Region.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I joined ABA in 2009 when I was pregnant with my first child so that I could attend a Breastfeeding Education Class and connect with my local group. However, my mum was a member, counsellor and trainer with NMAA for many years from the late 1970s, so I guess I’ve had that link to and knowledge about the Association for most of my life. Someone my mum trained then trained me! Shortly after I joined ABA, my group leader mentioned that she would need someone to take over from her within a year or two, so my primary reason for training was to become group leader and generally just help out within my group, region and branch. I started training in late 2011 and qualified in early 2014.

What do you love about ABA?

The people I meet through ABA are truly inspirational. It could be feeling energised and reassured by connecting with more experienced volunteers/mothers or seeing a new parent have that ‘aha!’ moment or overcome a challenge. Sometimes I might arrive tired at a group meeting or wonder how I will fit in a LiveChat shift or breastfeeding class but I always come away from my time with ABA feeling uplifted and inspired. Even though my kids are now well into their school years, I still attend group meetings twice a month as I find the face-to-face experience of connecting with other mothers fantastic. I have loved enjoying the delicious shared food too, although that aspect has had to pause for COVID!

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

I was nearing the end of my training (but dragging my feet) so my trainer gave me the target of finishing before the SANT Branch celebrated the ABA’s 50th birthday in 2014. I sent through my last assessment task on the Saturday evening. On arriving at the celebration on the Sunday afternoon I was asked if I would help cut the 50th birthday cake as the ‘newest qualified volunteer’, along with the Branch President and the volunteer who had trained the greatest number of years prior. What a great honour! Being encouraged and supported to complete my training also meant I was qualified in time to attend the National ‘Liquid Gold’ Conference in Melbourne that year, which was a wonderful experience.

A recent memory is from the end of a breastfeeding class when a dad-to-be said, ‘I knew we couldn’t possibly need all this stuff that people are trying to give us and now I feel sure we will be ok working this out as we go along’. Helping others feel confident to navigate their own journey is a good feeling.

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

I can’t remember who said it to me but the tip was to pretend you have an invisible remote control, and if the advice you’re receiving doesn’t sit well with you, nod along and smile but use that remote control to mute the advice.

When I was pregnant, my husband’s colleague told my husband that for the first 3 to 4 months of having a baby it would be a blur and we should remove all expectations on ourselves to accomplish anything. He warned him it would be hard and just to go with it all and that we would eventually come out the other side. I think hearing this from another man reassured my husband that this period is hard for most people and there is light at the end of the tunnel.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

You’re doing a great job! Although it is a natural process, breastfeeding is also a learned skill and takes practice and perseverance. Learning something new at any time can feel overwhelming but having a new baby may well be one of the steepest learning curves you’ll ever experience, at a time when you are unrelentingly tired and your hormones are possibly playing havoc too, so be kind to yourself. Don’t wait to ask questions or seek help, either from those close to you whose advice you trust or from the ABA. Remember our Breastfeeding Helpline is there 24/7 for a reason. It’s ok if your need for help can’t wait until morning. Things will continually evolve and it will get easier over time. At times you’ll need to throw expectations and plans out the window and that is ok. 

If you’re pregnant, attend a breastfeeding class (in person or online) with your support person.

 


 

 

Kathleen, breastfeeding counsellor

Kathleen - Breastfeeding Counsellor

I live in Melbourne’s inner northwest, with my husband, Michael, our 3 children, Bernie (21), Jacob (18) and Rosie (15), and assorted pets.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I qualified as a breastfeeding counsellor in 2009 and have held a variety of roles since I started training in 2006. I’ve been Group Librarian, Branch Conference Coordinator, Breast Pump Hire Officer, Group Treasurer, Regional Rep, Trainer and Assessor, and Branch President. I have also been involved with some national projects such as the Steering Committee for the 50th Anniversary book, the Breastfeeding with ABA Facebook group, and the podcast.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I became involved with ABA after the birth of Rosie in 2005. I’d had an easy time of feeding Bernie and Jacob, but Rosie threw me for a loop! I called a counsellor and she gave me so much of her time and helped me make a plan to address the issues we were having. I felt so grateful to the counsellor, Katie, that I joined up, and started going along to my local group meetings. I decided I would like to train and signed up to train just after the Cert IV qualification was introduced.

What do you love about ABA?

I love the community of women. I have met so many wonderful, inspiring women, and made so many friends through my involvement with ABA. I love the confidence ABA has given me and what that has meant for my life outside ABA.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

One phone call springs to mind! I had contacted National Office to express my interest in being involved with the 50th Anniversary history project, and then, due to moving house, promptly forgotten I’d done so. One afternoon, I was called to assist one of the children after they’d used the toilet, and the phone rang. Bernie answered it, as I was busy, and then brought the phone to me in the bathroom saying, ‘It’s an ABA lady.’ I grabbed the phone, tucked it into my shoulder as my hands were full and the person on the other end introduced herself. It was Founder Mary Paton inviting me to join the History Steering Committee!

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

I don’t remember who told me this, but my favourite piece of advice was to feed the baby when they so much as look like they might be thinking about it, and not to try to space out feeds. An angry, hungry baby doesn’t feed well.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

It won’t always be like this. There’s a steep learning curve when you start breastfeeding, for both you and your baby.

 


 

Jeanette, breastfeeding counsellor

Jeanette- Breastfeeding Counsellor

I am married to Toby and have two children, Rohan (8) and Rebecca (6). I live in Toowoomba, QLD. I have a long association with the Australian Breastfeeding Association/Nursing Mothers’ Association going back to my mum, Jean Clewett, who was a breastfeeding counsellor for around 11 years.

Mum joined the Nursing Mothers’ Association in June 1972, not long after my brother was born. He was a large baby, born by caesarean section as he was carrying in the breech position and Mum was not well with toxaemia. Mum described him as a very forward little fellow, though he was not too interested in feeding. She joined the NSW Bondi Junction Group and said it was a wonderful support for a new mum in a strange big city for a country girl with her first baby. On returning to Toowoomba in 1973, Mum must have had connections with other members in the area, as the Toowoomba Group was started in 1974, likely while she was pregnant with me. This began her involvement with ABA at a local group level in Toowoomba, as she was the group leader as well as a regional representative. Mum passed away in 2006, so sadly was not able to meet my children.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I started training in 2015 and qualified as a breastfeeding counsellor in 2016. Shortly after qualifying I became Group Leader for the Toowoomba Group. It’s hard to believe that was 4 years ago. I also have a role within the Queensland Branch as an assistant branch president. This role enables me to look at statistical information for Queensland as well as across Australia. This includes data such as membership numbers, trends, events for all groups around Australia, including date, type of event, attendance information and any other interesting data that we can analyse to support the work of the Australian Breastfeeding Association. With this interest on data, I also have a role as the Coordinator of the National Membership Working Group.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I got involved actively just before Rohan was born. Why? Because one of the local members, Weide, invited me along to a meeting and I knew my mum really enjoyed and valued her involvement with the Nursing Mothers’ Association. Weide’s mum was also a breastfeeding counsellor in Geelong many years ago, much the same time as my mother was, so we had a lot in common and we both had babies born the same year.

What do you love about ABA?

I love that it is an opportunity for mums to come together with the common interests of learning to breastfeed, supporting other women to breastfeed and advocating for a breastfeeding-inclusive society. I also love that we welcome the family (dads, grandmothers, grandfathers, family and friends) along as well to join in on discussions, activities and events. I’ve watched many great friendships forged through local ABA groups and amongst the volunteers. 

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

There are quite a few such as the support as a new mum when I had Rohan and meeting many other mums who are friends to this day as well as the help I received after Rebecca was born with a hard and soft cleft palate and having to pump and use bottles and supply lines. Some of my highlights have been having the opportunity to share at the ABA West Moreton Regional Conference in south-east Queensland about my journey of learning to breastfeed a baby (Rebecca) with a hard-cleft palate, and then sharing about my journey again in a small group discussion at the Queensland ABA Branch Conference. Despite Rebecca having a nasal gastric tube for her first 3 months, and then being bottle-fed with EBM until she was 9 months (and that was a struggle), she did eventually learn to breastfeed at 11 months.

When you have any challenge with breastfeeding, knowing that someone else has done it before and will walk beside you can make all the difference. Many thanks to my two IBCLCs who supported me, as well as Gillian from the ABA Laidley Group (now part of the Ipswich Group) who had a similar experience to me and was able to provide hope. We still catch up regularly 6 years later!

What is the best piece of advice you have received and who was it from?

A saying from my parents: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice’. My dad passed away in 2000 (cancer) and my mum in 2006 (Motor Neurone Disease). They would have loved to have been grandparents. Mum would have had lots of breastfeeding suggestions!

Even when things were tough this was their outlook, and I found myself contemplating this bit of advice both in the good times and the tough times.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

For new mums about to embark on their breastfeeding journey, take the time to read up on what might be expected, join an ABA group, take a breastfeeding education class with your partner or a support person, and be prepared that things could go a little or a lot differently than the expectation that breastfeeding will just happen. Be observant, ask questions, don’t be afraid to ask for help or to change your mind, have a friend you can really chat with and let them know how you are going. I also really encourage mums to find a local group of supportive mothers and families and to regularly catch-up so that friendships can be forged through times that might be a bit tricky, the good times, and the ordinary everyday activities.

 


 

Glenda, breastfeeding counsellor

Glenda - Breastfeeding Counsellor

I am Group Leader of the Gold Coast North ABA Group. This was my very first group when I joined in 1980. In 1984 we moved to Townsville, where I finished my training and became Group Leader of the Heatley Group. I was also a trainee adviser in Townsville, a role I really enjoyed.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a telephone counsellor with ABA, as well as leading the Gold Coast North Group, very ably assisted by Sarah Hohendorf. We have always worked together as co-group leaders and it has been such a harmonious partnership.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I first started attending ABA, then known as NMAA, in 1980 when my first little son Jules was 3 months. I had an oversupply of breastmilk and was looking for suggestions to manage my supply. I immediately bonded with the other mothers, many of whom are still great friends. We still have reunions every so often. I was asked to train by Sue Davidson, the trainee adviser at the time. I was truly thrilled that Sue thought I was capable of becoming a counsellor and felt very honoured to be asked to train.

What do you love about ABA?

I love the way ABA has evolved and become so extremely good at what we do over the years. The Founding Mothers were absolutely amazing in their foresight. I also really love all the women I have met over my 40-year involvement with ABA, making so many lovely friends who I value so much. 

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

I think it would be our invitation to Parliament House for cocktails with the Governor of Tasmania in Hobart, during the national ABA conference in Tasmania in 2005. What an honour to represent ABA at that event.

What is the best piece of advice you have received (and who was it from?)?

To ‘top up’ your baby at the breast. This piece of advice was given to me by Lyn Gilmore, who was my group leader and, eventually, a director on the NMAA Board of Directors in the late 1980s.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Relax and enjoy your baby. Trust your instincts and your baby. You both know what to do: just feed your baby and enjoy the experience.

 


 

 Emma, volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor

Emma - Breastfeeding Counsellor

Hi my name is Emma. I am 27 and immensely passionate about breastfeeding, particularly around promoting and protecting breastfeeding and educating women and their families. The politics and history of breastfeeding is something that I also am a very interested in. I am a mother to our 3-year-old son Oscar and am currently 36 weeks pregnant with our second baby, due in December. We live in a rural South Australian town called Crystal Brook. My husband and I were both born and bred here. Crystal Brook has a very strong ABA group and I can thank my Aunty for starting this back in 1986! My mother was an ABA counsellor also so I guess you can say ABA runs in my blood (or milk)! My husband is a keen supporter of breastfeeding and my passion. He blows me away sometimes how much he retains and takes on board – poor bloke probably doesn’t get the chance to escape my breastfeeding filled life!

ABA has given me so many skills to not only help counsel women in my ABA role, but to then be able to use these skills in my everyday life, particularly my work life and within my friendship groups regarding empathy, listening and acknowledging people’s feelings. Which all helps me to be a better mum, wife, friend, and human being.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I attend our monthly local group meetings where I help counsel and support local mothers. I am also our local group’s breast pump hire officer and promote ABA at childbirth and parenting classes. Lastly, I attend Breastfeeding Helpline shifts and enjoy volunteering on a national level. Helping mothers and their families locally as well as far and wide is so special and rewarding.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I have always been well informed about ABA and the importance of support when breastfeeding as well as women getting the correct information at the right time. But my deep passion for breastfeeding was fuelled when I started breastfeeding my son. We had a rocky start with tongue tie diagnosis and excruciatingly sore nipples! Once released, immediate relief. However, throughout our 2-year breastfeeding journey I went on to get mastitis 8 times! I’m so grateful for our not so smooth journey as it’s given me a deeper level of empathy and understanding for other mothers. Our local group leader, Chrissy, is someone who I look up to and aspire to be like. She encouraged me to consider training with ABA. I was 6 months into our breastfeeding journey when I contacted ABA to start my training. It then took me 2 and a half years to complete but I can proudly say I am now a qualified breastfeeding counsellor! I saw the need to have counsellors locally in our region as well as contribute nationally to an amazing organisation!

What do you love about ABA?

That women and their families have the opportunity to get up-to-date and evidence-based information as well as vital support. 

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

They all blur into one large ongoing general memorable experience, such as being able to help mothers locally and seeing them achieve their breastfeeding goals because I’ve been able to give them the right information or the confidence to make decisions that are right for them and their families.

What is the best piece of advice you have received (and who was it from?)?

Mothers need mothering! (ABA quote) So let people help, whether it’s cooking, cleaning or an hour of self-care time to fill your emotional cup. You don’t have to do it all and catching your breath is important so you can keep giving to your little person/people.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Take one feed at a time, one day at a time. It can be so overwhelming looking at the big picture but babies change so quickly and no challenging stage lasts forever, so trust your body and trust your baby.

 


 

Volunteer story - Minh

Minh - Breastfeeding Educator & National Social Media Coordinator

I came out from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, 10 years ago. Now I live with my partner, Michael, in Sydney, and we have two very active munchkins, Sophia (5 years) and Sam (2.5 years). Michael is a keen cyclist, so he often takes the children out for a bike ride. As a result, by 3 years old, Sophia could ride her two-wheel bike without any help. Before COVID-19, I often took them on train or ferry trips to the Australian Museum, the Botanic Gardens and the Zoo or for bush walks. As a result, they are great walkers and nature lovers. At 2 years old, Sam could walk bush tracks up to 6 km long.

On free days, we are busy in the kitchen. We love making our own pizzas, cakes, muffins, spring rolls, sushi, pasta, and dumplings, and we love making mess too! I also like handicrafts and spend a great amount of time knitting and making cards, and, of course, I have my little helpers by my side most of the time.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a breastfeeding community educator and a national social media coordinator. I enjoy my weekly LiveChat shifts at night when my children are in bed. I help out where I can with organising Breastfeeding Education Classes and volunteering at expos, and I sometimes submit articles to ABA’s member magazine Essence.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

As a migrant, I may not have known about ABA without someone introducing it to me. I got involved with ABA with some encouragement from my mum-in-law, who used to be a neighbour of a long-time ABA counsellor on the Central Coast, NSW. At first, I only went along to local ABA meetings until I felt comfortable to complete the training.

I have always wanted to volunteer to help vulnerable people in need. In Vietnam, I had a 3-month summer each year during my Uni break and that is when I volunteered with AIDS/HIV-infected or orphans with a disability at open houses in Ho Chi Minh City. I have liked volunteering since then, as I could do meaningful work to help my community as well as feel positive, valued and fortunate. When I heard about ‘training to do volunteering’ with ABA, I was hooked.

Yes, I think all mothers in the world, regardless of their nationalities, want to breastfeed their children if they can and they may need some support at some stages in their breastfeeding journey. I hope I can help mothers, especially minority communities like Vietnamese, to achieve their goals.

What do you love about ABA?

While ABA is a place to support breastfeeding, I also think of it as a place for women of all ages to meet each other, learn new skills and knowledge, develop interests, and keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date while they are busy bringing up their children. For me, I think it supports women mentally throughout their lives, especially women when their children are so little. 

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

Oh, I have so many that I can’t remember them all. Probably, I miss face-to-face meetings before COVID-19 where each volunteer could bring some food to share. I think it’s nice.

What is the best piece of advice you have received (and who was it from?)?

I like two bits of advice: only one way to find out ... try it! And take it with a grain of salt. I think they could go together. What do you think?

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

I think I would need to shut up, listen and ask questions to see where they are at.

 


 

Volunteer Lorraine with her grandkids

Lorraine - Breastfeeding Counsellor

I live in the Greater Geelong Region and am currently building a new house with my husband Dave in Anglesea. Our four children are adults and we have seven grandchildren, six boys, one girl. When we settle in our new home, I am looking forward to setting up some ABA meetings in towns along the Great Ocean Road. Watch this space!

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I was a Breastfeeding Counsellor in the late ‘80s-early ‘90s and resigned when we moved from East Keilor (Melbourne suburb) to Ocean Grove. Our children were all at school and we were busy establishing ourselves in the kids’ school and sporting clubs — so many clubs, as none of our four played the same sport or same musical instrument!

My early days in NMAA, now ABA, were very much about establishing and forming lifelong friendships, learning about breastfeeding, educating and advocating breastfeeding wherever I could, and entertaining my children at coffee mornings. I loved that NMAA gave me a village of like-minded women who brought many skills, thoughts and ideas to meetings that broadened my knowledge and opened my mind to the variety of ways to raise a family.

My return to ABA came about when my children were having children and I could see that so much work is still needed in our country. Australia is full of intelligent, educated, caring people yet it saddened me to see that breastfeeding our babies is still so far from being the norm in our society. I was appalled by the treatment one of my daughters experienced before discharge from hospital with her first baby and realised that without her having grown up with breastfeeding and NMAA, she may have given way to the pressure placed upon her and the beginning of formula-feeding would have begun.

Also, I was looking for an organisation to invest some of my time in and it became obvious that ABA was the one. I completed the Certificate IV in Breastfeeding Education and love, love, love being back counselling women and empowering them to make well informed decisions for themselves and their families.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

One of the greatest moments for me is the reaction I get when I ask women, ‘What do you want?’ They sometimes have never been asked. They sometimes have never considered it themselves. They are often surprised by the question and they often thank me for asking them. Breastfeeding is a two-way street and, as much as I personally consider it the ultimate for my babies, I am open to accepting it’s not for everyone. Most times though, with information and encouragement, women who have voiced their dislike/disappointment/distress of breastfeeding, end up telling me it’s not breastfeeding their baby that has brought them to this point but all the stress around breastfeeding their baby. If I can help one of these women to continue breastfeeding and enjoy the journey, I’ve accomplished something to be proud of. Trouble is, we don’t often know that we have.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

My first Group Leader, back in the old days, said ‘Are you STILL feeding that baby?’ to which I was a tad alarmed. She then went on to explain, ‘Isn’t that what everyone says?’ and I got her point. It was something people often said and I’d feel stressed. After her comments if it was said, I’d smile thinking of her cheeky face instead. So for all you gorgeous, breastfeeding women out there: if breastfeeding your baby is your thing, keep on breastfeeding and enjoy every moment. Life moves too fast to waste it on negative wizards.

 


Sharon, Breastfeeding Counsellor

Sharon - Breastfeeding Counsellor

I am Sharon, from the Western Melbourne Group, and I have 3 children, Eleanor 23 (who is married and lives in Geelong), Mitchell 20 and Eva who is 17 and in year 12. I’m a keen gardener, chook owner and sourdough baker and coffee drinker.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a Breastfeeding Counsellor and love volunteering on the Breastfeeding Helpline. I also do breast pump hire and, at the moment, I am running a weekly New Parents Group in the evenings via Zoom, focussing on breastfeeding for parents who have missed out due to COVID-19.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I was a member of NMAA years ago when my eldest was born. Many years later, I was working with a lot of new families and felt the urge to support and encourage them in their breastfeeding, and I needed education on how to do this correctly. So I re-joined when my kids were teens and did the Certificate IV in Breastfeeding Education (Counselling).

What do you love about ABA?

I absolutely love being on Helpline. I have my regular shift, but try to help out where I can by doing extra shifts, especially overnights. I love the amazing women in ABA, and now with national Facebook groups, Zoom conferences, people are just a click away. I love that ABA is not only about supporting women where they are in their breastfeeding, but also about the science and political world of breastfeeding.

What is your most memorable experience in your time with the ABA?

I love when I am on Helpline when I get their details of mums and find out they are local to me. One time I was able to hire a pump to a mum, in between taking calls, and later linked her up with some other ABA counsellors. She was meant to get me that night on Helpline.  

What is the best piece of advice you received and who was it from?

You are the best expert for your baby. I don’t remember who said it.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Make informed choices, but you know your baby best, because you really are the expert on your own baby.


Monica, Breastfeeding Counsellor

Monica - Breastfeeding Counsellor

I live in Perth with my husband Daniel and we're parents to two children, Emily who is 4 years old and John who is about 3 months old.

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a Breastfeeding Counsellor and really enjoy getting involved in social media to make a splash and ripple out our knowledge.

How and when did you get involved with ABA? What made you want to volunteer?

I applied to train about 3 years ago as I found a comfort with ABA and all that it stood for. I get a real kick out of helping others.

What do you love about ABA?

I love what ABA stands for. I appreciate the Code of Ethics! I really enjoy the daily skills and knowledge gained from being involved.

There are many beautiful and satisfying moments in ABA, but my most memorable moments are probably the learning experiences. I'm probably not alone in recalling the phone calls that haunt, the things I could have considered when speaking with a mother and the wisdom of hindsight. There are moments that really push me to gain more knowledge so I have an ever increasing stack of tools from which to use for the next mother.

What is the best piece of advice you received and who was it from?

There's more than one way to cook an egg - a phrase similar to this, from Dad and a farming background.

What would you say to new mums embarking on their breastfeeding journey?

Oh, I'd probably just shut up and listen. See where they're at.


 


Amy - Breastfeeding Counsellor, BEC presenter and Facebook administrator  

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I’m a Breastfeeding Counsellor, BEC presenter and occasional Facebook administrator.

How did you get involved with ABA?

My husband and I went to a BEC and it was the single most useful thing we did in preparation for our baby. We’ve had a beautifully easy breastfeeding experience overall in part because of the knowledge and skills we gained from the BEC and the ongoing support of ABA. I went to my first ABA meeting when pregnant and volunteered at expos. My friend Mary was studying to be a Breastfeeding Counsellor and encouraged me to consider it because at that time our local group was on hiatus due to lack of trained volunteers. This year I returned to paid work as a teacher, I'm currently running playgroups for families with children 0-4 years so Breastfeeding Counsellor is another set of skills and knowledge I draw on when supporting parents with young children.

What do you love about ABA?

The fact that it’s a national organisation with a simple yet important focus. I most enjoy face-to-face counselling and I’m very interested in the advocacy work we can be involved in. This year Mary and I submitted an ABA response to the NT whole-of-government early years strategy and we're hoping to organise a training session for early childhood educators about how to support breastfeeding in their services. I like presenting the BECs because I know how valuable it was for us as new parents, there's always lots of great questions and discussions from the participants and it's great to know we're helping people set up for breastfeeding success right from the start.

Tell us a bit about your family.

I live in Palmerston, NT with my husband Duncan and 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter Isabelle. I have a very supportive mum and dad who love spending time with their first grandchild whenever they can, but like many people we don't have family up here so the friendships I've made through ABA and other mum's groups has been invaluable.

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

Read - whether it’s a novel, non-fiction or researching a topic on the internet.  

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

We followed the baby-led weaning philosophy so Isabelle will try anything and usually eats whatever we’re having. She loves bolognaise and mango.



Andrea - Breastfeeding Counsellor, Group Leader, Treasurer, breast pump hire officer for Gungahlin Canberra Group and Mentor  

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I'm a breastfeeding counsellor with ABA and the group leader, treasurer and one of the breast pump hire officers for my local group - Gungahlin in Canberra. I also mentor some local mums who are training as breastfeeding counsellors and community educators with ABA.

How did you get involved with ABA?

I started my counsellor training with ABA when my second baby was about 6 months old and due to suffering a sort of road rage about breastfeeding misinformation. It took me ages to complete my training. 

What do you love about ABA?

The thing I like most about ABA is the organisation's commitment to evidence! I was so impressed by this when I had my babies and so grateful to have access to accurate information about breastfeeding, that I wanted to be part of it. 

Tell us a bit about your family.

My family is my two boys Finn and Timmy, now 9 and 6; my third child - I mean husband - Richard, now 50; my parents; and my siblings, their partners and their four littles ones, so far.   

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

In my "me time" I try to lie on the couch and not move, at which I am highly unsuccessful. I also listen to podcasts about science, history and ideas.   

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

My boys like my muffins. I started out with a basic muffin recipe and am experimenting with how far I can deviate from it and still call them muffins - a profound philosophical question. Ever tried grated carrot in place of half the sugar? It works! In fact, I've just overcooked a batch while typing this. Another favourite is my smoothies, with secret ingredients like salad vegetables and bran. If only they'd eat normal meals!   



Ann - Breastfeeding Counsellor  

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a breastfeeding counsellor in the Isolated Members North West group and we cover a massive area of Western Australia, and my nearest fellow volunteer is two and a half hours drive away. 

How did you get involved with ABA?

Through the online forum when I was exclusively expressing for my oldest child, I joined up as a member when he was born six weeks premature because I wanted to buy the booklet about feeding your premature baby. There was no local group at the time so didn’t really get any more involved than that. I re-joined in each of my subsequent pregnancies and joined up to train when I finally breastfed by fourth baby beyond six months. I wanted to be able to provide support to mothers locally, as I felt this was so lacking in my previous breastfeeding experiences. 

What do you love about ABA?

The feeling of finding people that are welcoming and supportive without being judgemental about my choices as a parent and knowing that although there is a network of (mainly) women working together towards a common goal, despite the fact I very rarely see any of them. Now that my kids are a bit bigger, I love that I get the opportunity to see and cuddle babies every week!

Tell us a bit about your family.

I live with my husband of nine years and our four children, a 7 year old boy, 5 year old boy girl twins and our 3 year old girl who is going to have mummy mulky forever apparently! We do a lot of camping when it isn’t too hot, swimming when it is and my husband and kids all race BMX while I carry the water.   

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

At the moment I have to get up at 5am to head to the gym to lift weights, it would be nice to have the opportunity to do that some other time in the day! I am also knitting at the moment, a fairly useless past time where I live but I find it very calming and I love to sit down with a book uninterrupted. 

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

I pre make lots of fruit and choc chip muffins at the start of each term and freeze them to make the getting to school and work mornings smoother. I was asking the kids the other day what they would like for morning tea instead, perhaps something they had seen in someone else’s lunch box and my oldest informed me that actually everyone else is jealous of his morning tea! Their favourite dinners are the usual lasagne and spaghetti bolognaise.     



Anngie - Breastfeeding counsellor for the Darwin Palmerston and Rural Groups  

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am Breastfeeding Counsellor for the Darwin/ Palmerston and Rural group and do the breast pump hire role as well as helping out where I can with BEC’s and community events etc

How did you get involved with ABA?

I got involved with ABA after calling the Helpline a few times with my second child who I was having a few feeding issues with. I was always overwhelmed by the empathy and support I felt when I called. The reassurance the women on the end of the phone gave me filled me with confidence and hope at times when I had none. So once I got on top of things after a few months I decided I wanted to give back and become a counsellor myself.  I joined ABA and after attending my first meeting I expressed interest in training and the rest is history. 

What do you love about ABA?

I love the people I have met through ABA. They are all kind, generous and wise advocates.  Ultimately the volunteers just want to help support families in meeting their breastfeeding goals and normalise breastfeeding within the wider community. I often find meeting and chatting with new mums an emotional experience. It generally transports me right back to that same stage and time in my life and often the challenges that came with it.  Being involved in ABA regularly provides me with emotional and rewarding experiences for which I am very grateful. 

Tell us a bit about your family.

I have been blessed to be surrounded by gorgeous boys. I have a wonderful partner who is extremely supportive of the work I do with ABA and I have 3 sons, Henry (8), Archie (4) and Benjamin (2.5). We returned to Darwin after being away for 8 years and I feel right back at home in the humidity and the mould! I am a Registered Nurse and have started working in health research which I find fascinating. Now I am quietly dreaming up ideas for some breastfeeding related research proposals.

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

I enjoy running when I get the opportunity for some ‘me time’. I have found it challenging over the past 12 months acclimatising to the Darwin weather and have fluctuating levels of motivation dependent of the time of year. I am hoping to do a couple of interstate events this year and enjoy the milder temperatures. 

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

My kids' favourite recipes changes frequently, what was a hit one week can quickly become offensive to serve to my children the following week... please tell me I’m not alone with this scenario? But Mexican wraps is guaranteed winner and pea and mint risotto is also 95% guaranteed to be a success (for now anyway). I also make a mean blondie slice that my eldest refers to as ‘Sloppy Slice’, but despite his unfavourable labelling he loves it and requests it frequently. 


 

Eleanor - Breastfeeding Counsellor, previously Group Leader and training to become a Community Educator  

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I’m a breastfeeding counsellor and a trainer and assessor. I’m also working towards the CE role, with one unit left to go. I’ve just handed over the Group Leadership for Peninsula Group, as well as working on the Facebook group and page for the Mornington Peninsula Region. As well as odds and ends as they come up and I have time - as many of us do!

How did you get involved with ABA?

My mum has been an active counsellor for over 30 years, so it was something I always knew was there for when I had children. I was in Alice Springs when I had my first son and went to my first ABA meeting as an adult. I realised after about 6 months of maternity leave I didn’t really want to go back to work just yet, but I did want to do more than just hang out at home so I started training. It was wonderful working with the Alice Springs community and Sue Morrish who was the group leader at the time. 

What do you love about ABA?

I love the inclusive nature of the groups, the way you can travel from Melbourne to Alice Springs to Perth and find a group of women who are happy to meet you where you are at with parenting and breastfeeding. I was also quite active on the ABA forum for a long time, and the community of women on there, the support, friendship and welcome is amazing. 

Tell us a bit about your family.

After living for 10 years in Alice Springs, my husband Paul and I made the move to the Mornington Peninsula to be closer to my family as our children grow bigger. We have 3 sons - Jake who is navigating school, Tom who has just begun kinder and Oliver who is learning about childcare as I have just returned to study after 4 years of not working.

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

I love to read and catch up over coffee with friends and family.

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

They have been loving home-made ice-cream in the warm March weather Melbourne has had, but they also love anything with rice as the base (rice porridge, fried rice, risotto, etc).



Glenda - Breastfeeding Counsellor, Group Leader Gold Coast North Group and previously a Trainee Adviser       

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

For the past three years I have been co-group leader of the Gold Coast North group of the Australian Breastfeeding Association.  I carry out this very rewarding role with Sarah.  We love leading monthly discussion meetings on breastfeeding at the Northern end of the beautiful Gold Coast.  We work well together as a team, as we both take turns leading the discussions, and Sarah looks after much of the social media in our group.  We have built a cohesive group of mothers who keep returning to our get-togethers and enjoy each other’s company and watching each other’s babies grow and thrive, whilst continually growing their own breastfeeding knowledge and skills. 

How did you get involved with ABA?

I first became involved with Australian Breastfeeding Association in 1980.  My little three month old breastfed son Jules, now thirty-eight, cut two bottom teeth and we had a little biting incident one evening.  I phoned my local counsellor, Jane, and we talked about some solutions for a very sore breast, and how to avoid any more little bites.  Jane invited me to a local meeting and I went along and found so much support and information.  I was hooked immediately and could not wait to go back to the following meeting.  I had found a group of like-minded women who I wanted very much to be friends with.  I continued to travel up and down the Gold Coast strip to many meetings over the following years.  I held the role of the hirer of the reel to reel film which our group hired out.  Then I was invited to train as a counsellor.  I was so honoured that my group thought I was capable of being a counsellor that I gladly accepted the invitation.  I was a counsellor and Trainee Adviser in Townsville for twenty years. 

What do you love about ABA?

There are so many things I love about the Australian Breastfeeding Association.  Firstly, the warm fuzzy feelings I get when I am on the Helpline roster and I feel as if I have genuinely helped another mother to feel more confident about her breastfeeding role.  I have gained so much in learning opportunities over the thirty-seven years of my involvement.  I have attended workshops and conferences, and been to Hobart, Brisbane and Melbourne to attend International Conferences.  I have listened to eminent guest speakers on breastfeeding from all over the world.  Recently I won a registration to an outstanding e-conference with twenty free International lectures on breastfeeding.  I would have to say that the many friendships I have made over the years are a shining beacon and a wonderful legacy of my years of being a volunteer.  Facebook has reunited me with many women I have known for over thirty years.

Tell us a bit about your family.

I have been married to my husband John for 39 years this month.  We had four beautiful children, two boys and two girls.  Three of my children are now in their thirties, however, unfortunately our fourth baby Armelle was stillborn at 38 weeks gestation in 1996.  The amazing support of my family, and my ABA family, helped us through this very dark time.  I am the proud Grandmother of six Grandchildren, Aidan, Lola, Chloe, Tristan, Jonah and baby Jayse, who unfortunately died from a heart defect at three months.  John and I are getting close to retirement age but I am a very happy volunteer, and assist in two of my Grandchildren’s classrooms each week. Recently, I also spent quite a lot of time helping my Mother Ethel who turned 96 in December. 

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

When I get some ‘me time’ my favourite thing to do is to create beautiful sewn bunting in various designs, colours and patterns.  I didn’t have a sewing machine, however a lovely ABA friend offered to give me one when I told her of my plans.  I am working on developing this little home business slowly.  I am proud to have some of my bunting displayed at a hugely popular local café in my area.  I have learnt so much already and continually strive to improve my product and promotion of my bunting project.  As life settles into retirement John and I would love to pursue more travel to places like Lord Howe Island and New Zealand.

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

I do love to cook and once wanted to be a Home Economics teacher.  My kids favourite recipes are my sausage, gravy and mash casserole, passed on to me by an ABA friend Deb, my spinach quiche from the red ABA cookbook, savoury mince pie, lemon delicious pudding, sago plum pudding and baked rice pudding.


 

Jodie - Group Leader, Katherine NT & Breastfeeding Counsellor       

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am Group Leader of Katherine Group NT and a Breastfeeding Counsellor.

How did you get involved with ABA?

I joined ABA when my first son was a couple of months old, in search of some mum/bub friends. I became a volunteer when my third child was born because I felt that I had found my tribe and wanted to give back some of the support and wisdom that I had received.

What do you love about ABA?

I love the feeling I get after helping a new mum, or getting our picture in the paper, or being a part of an interesting meet up. I love the newborn cuddles. I love the friends I have made all over the country, no matter where I move, I will have instant friends with ABA. 

Tell us a bit about your family.

My husband is Egan, we met in the NAVY and he is now in the RAAF. He is very quiet (the opposite to me) but has always been my biggest support with breastfeeding, training - everything. Our eldest Rhys will be 11 in December.... ELEVEN!!! Lainey is our very firey 8 year old and Kaeden is our surprise baby, he is nearly 3. If we didn't have him I probably wouldn't have gone back to ABA and then trained. My husband has a massive horse 'Dog' who was a cute puppy found in a moment of weakness and we have seven poultry, four of which are broody so not currently earning their keep in eggs!!! 

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

I stay up late and enjoy the quiet of the house. I usually watch Home and Away on catch up TV or Facebook. Mostly Facebook! 

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

They love my cheesey mite scrolls and I can't go wrong with spaghetti bolognaise, even if we had it two days ago. Mango sorbet and chocolate custard are regular desserts


 

Megan - Breastfeeding Counsellor and Community Educator, Group Leader for the Burley Griffin group in Canberra, Regional Representative for the 13 groups across the ACT and Southern NSW and a Trainer and Assessor.      

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I am a Breastfeeding Counsellor and Community Educator, Group Leader for the Burley Griffin group in Canberra, Regional Representative for the 13 groups across the ACT and Southern NSW and a Trainer and Assessor.

How did you get involved with ABA?

When my first son was 5 weeks old I saw an advertisement in the community page of the local paper for a group meeting. I was recovering from a bout of mastitis and struggling with a baby who wasn’t doing what the books said he should be. I went to the meeting and found my village! 9 years later I’m still here.

What do you love about ABA?

The wonderful people who make up my ABA family.  

Tell us a bit about your family.

My husband and I have two sons – our older one, who is now 9 years old and his brother who recently turned 5. We share our home with a budgie, two fish, three chickens and a collection of lizards, butterflies and other creatures. 

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

I have always loved handcrafts, so spending time in my sewing room is my favourite ‘me time’ escape. I’m also very interested in family history research, so trips to the National Library are on the me time list too.

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

We have a few food allergies to work around, but there are definitely two recipes that stand out. Both would eat our homemade bolognaise sauce at every meal if I’d let them – they still like it even though they now know it has carrots and zucchini in it. The other favourite is our “Nothing” cake – an allergy friendly chocolate cake that has “nothing” (no dairy, no egg, no gluten, no nuts) in it which is amazingly delicious.


 

Sari - Breastfeeding counsellor and Onkaparinga Group SA leader.      

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I’m a Breastfeeding counsellor and an Onkaparinga Group SA leader.

How did you get involved with ABA?

When I had my first newborn I was determined to breastfeed as I felt this was the best thing for my baby. I remember receiving so many 'helpful' tips from friends and family that just wasn't helpful at all such as 'if you give her formula she will sleep!'. I started using the ABA website to get some professional advice and then found out about the traineeships to become a counsellor. I had always wanted to volunteer so it was a perfect way for me to educate myself and be able to help people by becoming a counsellor!

What do you love about ABA?

The community, the support, the information they provide, everything really! 

Tell us a bit about your family.

I have a wonderful supportive husband Daniel and we’re parents to two-and-a-half-year-old Evie Ray who is very strong willed and challenging at times but amazing and a five-and-a-half-year-old Elka Jade. We live in a beautiful costal suburb in South Australia called Maslin Beach.  

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

I like to go for walks along the beach as this is where I do my best thinking or get a pedicure mostly for the massage chair!

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

At the end of each week I make a big pasta bake with an organic pasta and sauce, turkey mince and I fill it with all my leftover veggies which I grate or chop finely. Evie loves it!



Sky - Community educator and Regional Representative for the Westgate Region of Melbourne.      

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

I’m a community educator and Regional Representative for the Westgate Region of Melbourne, having just stood down as Group Leader of Western Melbourne. My focus is on social media, driving membership and health professional engagement. I’ve previously been a director on the ABA Board and a national social media coordinator. .

How did you get involved with ABA?

I joined around 9 years ago when I was pregnant with my son. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and would need support - it just seemed the logical thing to do! I was immediately welcomed into my local group and very quickly I decided to start training to be a community educator. I’m a lawyer by profession and have previously taught at a university, so I was drawn to education and advocacy. 

What do you love about ABA?

When I first joined ABA the thing I loved most was the access to more experienced mothers. While I adored my new mums group, we were all as clueless as each other! At ABA meetings I could say “my baby wakes 6 times a night and breastfeeds a gazillion times a day, is that normal?” and a chorus of wonderful women would answer “Yes!” I remember going to an evening meeting when Arlo was about 3 months old and a lovely ABA member held my baby while I had a hot tea and joined the discussion. It was bliss. Now the thing I love most is still the support of other members and volunteers and especially the chance to share my experience and knowledge with new mums in my area.  

Tell us a bit about your family.

My partner Jamie and I have two kids - Arlo is 8 and our daughter Ionna (Noni) is 5. She has just started school so it’s been an eventful few months! We also have two fur babies - Kitty Amin, our 3-legged feline dictator, and a gorgeous spoodle called Bok Choy. 

When you get some 'me time' what is your most favourite thing to do?

I am an avid reader, so I love a day spent on the couch with a great book - those days don’t seem to happen much though! I love going to see live music with my husband. And probably my most favourite thing is to spend time with a bunch of my favourite women, plotting how to solve the world’s problems over a nice glass of wine. 

What are your kids' favourite recipes?

Spaghetti bolognese cooked by Gigi (grandma) is the absolute winner in my house. My daughter loves sautéed kale (really!) and my son loves grilled salmon (except when he doesn’t!)


 

Steve - Office Admin Volunteer.      

What is your volunteer role with ABA?

A bit of everything; from filling 'Welcome Packs' for new members, counting stock of available resources to anything the office staff throws at me! 

What do you enjoy most about your role and responsibilities?

The variety of tasks each week.

What do you love about ABA?

I love the idea of people who have experienced challenges in the past are helping those who are having the same challenges now. 

When you get some 'me time', what is your favourite thing to do?

Travel to the country, especially the south west coast of Victoria. 

What are your most loved recipes?

Recipes? What are they?!

Where is your ultimate holiday destination and why?

Canada, especially the west coast. The scenery there is spectacular. I have been there in the past and will be returning later this year to visit a friend who lives on Vancouver Island.


 More Volunteers' stories:

  • Belinda; Banksia group, Melbourne, VIC

I’ve been volunteering with ABA since my little girl was about 3 months old. There was a call out for someone to volunteer to edit our local group’s Bulletin, and as I have had experience in this area in my professional life, it seemed like a good fit! It was also great because it gave me something to do that reminded me that while I’m a mother and that’s of the utmost importance, I’m also capable of doing many other things!

In addition, I am secretary for my group, have helped organise and staff sausage sizzles and other ABA events, sold raffle tickets and hosted meetings.

As an ABA volunteer, you are really appreciated for whatever time you can manage to spare, be it only an hour! You can choose when to help and if you have issues with your children that day, there is always someone to take over or give you a hand. It is very flexible.

ABA and breastfeeding in general need all the publicity, support and promotion we can provide. Bearing in mind that ABA is a not-for-profit association and that all our breastfeeding counsellors are volunteers, giving my personal time to such an organisation just makes sense. Volunteering with ABA is a very rewarding experience. Breastfeeding is a passion for most of the people involved with ABA. It’s great to spend time with like-minded people and I feel as though I’m doing something important. Volunteering for ABA has given me a purpose (other than mothering) during my leave from paid work and as I feel so passionately about breastfeeding, it gives me a sense of satisfaction to know I’m doing my part to promote, support and encourage breastfeeding as the most normal and beneficial way to feed your baby.


  • Bec; Banksia group, Melbourne, VIC

I began volunteering with ABA in 2011. I have been the Bulletin Editor, Treasurer and Social Coordinator, as well as hosting meetings, cooking sausages and cakes for fundraising stalls, and manning the feed and change tent at local festivals.

I have always tended to be a helper and active participant in anything that I do. As I only returned to work part time following my first child, I was happy to help out when a position (Bulletin Editor) was offered to me. It gave me the opportunity to use my brain a bit again and to get to know other mums in the area a little better. I feel good to be using my skills to enhance the group and make it better than ever.

I think that volunteering with ABA has shown that I am active and motivated, as well as showing the way in which I give back to the community. I have fine tuned my budgeting skills and learnt how to apply for grants, as well as a lot of informal breastfeeding and mothering knowledge. I would recommend volunteering with ABA to anyone. There are multiple opportunities to participate as much or as little as you have time for and it brings you closer to other mothers/families and to your community.


  • Erin; Townsville group, QLD

I have volunteered on and off with ABA for the past 3 years, after the birth of my first child. I have been the Group Treasurer, National Raffle Coordinator and assisted with other activities such as fundraisers.

Volunteering with ABA gave me an opportunity to give back to a group who helped me, also to do something else whilst raising my children that used my brain a bit as I wasn’t working anymore. At times I felt challenged, but also enjoyed that challenge. It made me feel good knowing I was still able to do things that weren’t just being a mother. It has given me the confidence to do more accounting type work and coordinate other activities. I’m now a coordinator for a local playgroup.


  • Rebekah; Kalamunda group, WA

I have been volunteering with ABA since 2011. I have volunteered as the ABA group Publicity Officer and have occasionally hosted group catch ups at my house. I was on maternity leave and wanted a project to focus on where I could contribute to society, was interesting and flexible and was possible to do from home.

I enjoy volunteering with ABA as I have found it interesting and fulfilling. It has given me experience with issuing press releases and liaising with media outlets. It also helped develop my skills in working with others to achieve a common objective. Volunteering with ABA has increased my confidence, particularly when I was on maternity leave. I have also developed friendships and skills as a result of volunteering with ABA. I would say that I have found the experience to be positive and that there are a number of ways to volunteer and contribute.


  • Louise; City West group, NSW

I have been a member since 2008. I have done raffles tickets sales at local supermarket, sausage sizzles, hosted meeting, also helped out at a show feed and change tent.

I am a midwife and I am passionate about breastfeeding. As a breastfeeding mother, I would like to share my breastfeeding experiences with other mothers on their breastfeeding journey.  Also, I am happy about volunteering as it is a way to contribute to the community. When I am involved with ABA, I am comfortable and feel supported.  Being involved with ABA has helped me to understand that sometimes things do not go according to plans (i.e. breastfeeding). The life experience has made me more knowledgeable to contribute to my work. I have learnt a lot of things, and get pleasure from helping the group and friendships.

To others thinking about volunteering with ABA I encourage them to volunteer with ABA, and share with them the experience I had. ABA has good services for breastfeeding mothers, and ABA support mothers who are having a challenging breastfeeding times.  By volunteering, you are contributing to a good cause for mothers and babies.


  • Kerri; Townsville group, QLD

I was Group Administrator for a while, I have done the Diary Dates, been responsible for getting Diary Dates printed, newsletter, Facebook Admin for our local group, volunteered for sausage sizzles, organised a Breastfeeding Week function at the hospital, volunteered at ABA feed/change tent for several Baby Welcoming Ceremonies.

Whenever I have volunteered at Baby Welcoming Ceremonies or Sausage Sizzles there has always been someone approach us who is eager to share their own breastfeeding stories - usually older women who are now grandparents who breastfed their own children 2 years and beyond in the days when breastfeeding was definitely the exception and not the norm.  It's so lovely to hear them talk about their own journeys and perhaps we offer them a safe place to share.