New mums say thanks to a bosom buddy

Ros Fleetwood (front centre) with other members of the Lismore Group of the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

Ros Fleetwood has experienced sleepless nights and sore breasts for the last 20 years, and wouldnt give it up for quids.

Ros is leader of the Lismore Group of the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), which she joined two decades ago when she was pregnant with her first child. She loved the experience so much she trained as a counsellor and became group leader in 1993.

It was great support for me as a new mum. I didnt have any family in the area, so the women in the group became my sisters and aunties, and helped me with breasfeeding and mothering in the early days, Ros said. Over the years I have watched some mothers breastfeed through baby one, two and three, so I really feel like one of the family. Breastfeeding is a very intimate and emotional time, and its a great privilege to share all their triumphs and sorrows.

Members of the Lismore Group of ABA recently held a party to mark Ross 20th year and say thank you to a woman who has provided a friendly ear and words of wisdom through milk spills, mastitis and bitten nipples.

Ros said many women make lifelong friendships through the group and because breastfeeding hasnt always been mainstream, its often a vital source of information.

For a lot of young women their mothers didnt breastfeed or didnt have very successful breastfeeding experiences because many health professionals in the 1970s didnt understand how breastfeeding worked, so while they can talk to their mums about various aspects of parenting and childcare, they cant always talk to them about breastfeeding, Ros said. Many mothers face breastfeeding challenges but with the right help and support they go on to breastfeed successfully. It is wonderful watching mothers get to know their babies and become confident in their mothering skills.

One of the other great things about the group is that different mothers and babies of all ages come along, so theres always someone one step ahead who you can ask for tricks of the trade. Its a very open and sharing group and we all learn from one another and take ideas home.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association was established in 1964 by Mary Paton, a new mum who discovered there was absolutely no information available on breastfeeding. In fact, back then you werent even allowed to use the word breast or nipple in public print, hence the groups original title the Nursing Mothers Association. Marys group expanded purely by word of mouth (often in whispers) with women bringing along friends to Marys house for clandestine breastfeeding sessions. Today, there is over 400 groups nationwide.

The Lismore Group of the ABA meets every second Friday of the month at 10am at the Lismore Library (the next meeting is Friday, May 9, during National Mothering Week. The topic for discussion is balancing our roles taking care of mum too). The group also has a coffee morning during the fourth week of every month.

For more information on the group phone Ros on 6689 9356. If youre experiencing problems breastfeeding, phone the ABA Helpline on (02) 8853 4999 or visit

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