Supervision within The Breastfeeding Network

The Breastfeeding Network (BfN) fundamentally believes that supervision is the cornerstone which underpins all practice in supporting volunteers and staff to carry out breastfeeding support in communities and on our helplines. Regular supervision promotes an ethos of honest communication. We feel that it is BfN’s commitment to supervision that makes the charity stand out and distinguishes our approach to peer support.

‘Supervision can be a place where a living profession can breathe and learn’

Hawkins and Shohet, ‘Supervision in the Helping professions’

What is BfN supervision

The primary aim of supervision is to protect the safety and best interest of the mothers and babies that our registered Helpers and Supporters work with to ensure that they receive the best possible support in line with BfN policies and procedures.

Supervision provides a space for support, learning and reflection. It is an opportunity for a two-way discussion to ensure that practical and emotional support can be given, ideas can be discussed, training identified, up-to-date information shared and practice/personal matters raised and dealt with appropriately. It is important because it can prevent small issues becoming major problems and to support the peer supporter through any difficulties.

Supervision is a place where ongoing learning and professional development can be planned and monitored.

Volunteers and Staff who are well-informed, knowledgeable and clear about their roles are often the most skilled and dedicated leading to high levels of satisfaction.

How Supervision works in the Breastfeeding Network

Every BfN member has a named Supervisor who can provide supervision. BfN supervisors are all trained BfN volunteers who have completed our level two (supporter) training and then done an additional 5 days training to develop their skills to offer supervision to others.

Sessions are built on a ‘working together’ basis. Supervisees can share and discuss their practice without feeling judged or discriminated against. It can be an opportunity for a Supervisee to feel valued in their work for the charity. There is also an opportunity for a Supervisor or Tutor to grow, learn from their supervisees and revise their thought processes / thinking.

To uphold the high standard of support BfN requires all of its volunteers and staff to attend supervision as a requirement of member registration. BfN members are issued with a supervision ‘passport’ to log their sessions which can be signed off by the supervisor.

Depending on the level of training, BfN supervision (and registration) requirements differ. They are as follows:-

  • A BfN Helper (level 1): 1 group session per month (minimum of 4 in 6 months). Re-Registration: 6 monthly
  • A BfN Supporter (level 2): 1 group session every 2 months (min 6 per year, Jan-Dec) including one 1:1 (face to face / telephone). Re-registration: Annual
  • A BfN Supervisor/Tutor: As Supporter + a minimum of ONE of the two Supervisor/Tutor days each year. Re-registration: Annual

Supervision maintains an open line of communication between our volunteers and the wider BfN.

It provides a means of ensuring that the BfN ethos and policies are implemented thus enabling a standardised quality service to be available to all service users.

Supervision enables the ongoing evaluation of the work of Helpers and Supporters to ensure risks to mothers and babies are eliminated or at least minimised.

The costs of supervision are minimal but they are a vital part of any commissioned peer support project. We build in plans for supervision as part our training and after the training period as funding and time are required to support this important activity. Without supervision and support we often see that volunteers feel unsupported and stop volunteering much more quickly. Initial supervision costs are included with each training course and costs for ongoing supervision can be requested by emailing