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WATCH: Southwest mums urged to breastfeed for longer

WATCH: Southwest mums urged to breastfeed for longer

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 5:33pm 16th March 2018.

Mums across the southwest are being offered 24/7 support for breastfeeding thanks to new technology.

According to Public Health England, fewer than half of babies (44%) in England are breastfed at 6-8 weeks, making breastfeeding rates in England among the lowest in the world.

This is despite around three quarters of women starting breastfeeding when their baby is born.

And the health body says that a survey of 1,000 mums has revealed that, in hindsight, mothers wished they had been better prepared.

But now a new skill on Amazon Alexa is hoping to encourage parents to adopt healthy behaviours.

Available for free on a range of platforms, including Facebook Messenger, the 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend is now accessible for the first time as a skill for Amazon Alexa’s voice service.

Mothers can ask Alexa a variety of questions about breastfeeding and the answers will be provided tailored to the age of the baby.

This means that they can get helpful advice even when their hands are full.

It comes after the survey revealed that breastfeeding was low on the agenda for expectant mothers in terms of priorities, with things like buying baby equipment and clothes and preparing for labour as top priorities.

But, post-birth, it also highlighted that 33% of mothers felt embarrassed about asking for help with breastfeeding from healthcare professionals, and with many mums finding this often caused them to give up.

Rosanne Sodzi, Health & Wellbeing programme manager for Public Health England South West, said: "We know that breastfeeding is an area that many mothers need support with and we know that this can be particularly difficult out of hours (for example in the middle of the night when other support services aren’t around) this is when the chatbot is really useful.

"The ‘Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend is available via Amazon Alexa’s voice search’ and is a great tool for mums in South West who are looking for help and advice about breastfeeding."


The research also highlighted how 64% of mums felt access to 24/7 breastfeeding support, such as a phoneline, website or chatbot, would make new mothers more likely to have a positive experience of breastfeeding.

It also found they would be more likely to decide to try breastfeeding (59%) and breastfeed for longer (58%).

Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England, said: "Breast feeding, whilst natural, is something that mothers and babies learn together, and whilst learning, women may have questions and setbacks. PHE is working with health professionals to make sure women are not embarrassed and receive timely help.

"Health professionals do an excellent job of caring for new mothers, but they cannot be available 24/7, which is where our Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life is designed to help.

"This tool, together with the range of support materials from Start4Life, can provide breastfeeding advice at any time of night or day and support mothers and their partners and families through challenges they may face."

Public Health England recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around the first six months, which helps boost a baby's chance of fighting illness and infection.

Experts say babies who are not breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and chest infections and that breastfeeding also lowers a mother’s risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Southwest mum Hannah, 35, said: "I had a very tough start to breastfeeding, it didn't come easily to either Abraham or myself. He struggled to latch on initially and my milk flow was so fast that when he did it overwhelmed him.

"After a few weeks we found a comfortable way to feed but despite this he continued to lose weight to the point I was advised to up my calorie intake to over 4000 calories as a last ditch attempt to raise his weight!

"Eventually we discovered that whilst I had been able to eat dairy during pregnancy, he had the same dairy intolerance I did. Once that was cut out he just grew and grew and is now off the charts.

"Breastfeeding is hard, it's new for both of you and can feel awkward at times, but it is so rewarding and the best experience. It’s just a question of finding what works for you and your baby and sticking to it."

These digital offerings will help guide new parents through their first weeks of breastfeeding and beyond, providing help at any time of the day or night, and aim to complement support and advice from health care professionals and breastfeeding specialists.

The information provided by all the Start4Life services is NHS-approved and both services are independent of Amazon and Facebook.

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