The proportion of new mothers who are still breastfeeding after 2 months drops by 40%, according to new data.
Almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, but this drops to 44% within 6 to 8 weeks. However, evidence shows the right support helps mums to breastfeed for longer. Public Health England (PHE) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.
A new survey of 500 mothers of young children commissioned by PHE showed that more than half were concerned that breastfeeding could mean they wouldn’t be able to tell if their baby was getting too much or not enough milk. A similar proportion of mums surveyed thought that people might assume they need a special diet to breastfeed.
Nearly 3 in 10 worried that breastfeeding could mean their baby might not be getting the right nutrients, indicating why mothers may stop breastfeeding at this early point.
Breastfeeding boosts a baby’s ability to fight illness and infection. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and respiratory infections. It lowers a mother’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer, and also burns around 500 calories a day.
Start4Life, PHE’s marketing programme that helps parents-to-be and parents to adopt healthy behaviours, has launched a new interactive Breastfeeding Friend (BFF) ChatBot. The BFF is accessed through Facebook messenger and provides personal support for mothers at any time of the day or night to help make breastfeeding a better experience.
The BFF will also dispel breastfeeding myths and help alleviate concerns mums have. The ChatBot works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user.
Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse at PHE said:
“Breastfeeding, while natural, is something that all mums and their babies learn by doing. Mums tell us that after the first few weeks breastfeeding becomes easier, so proper support is crucial at this time, which is where our BFF is designed to help.
We can all help women feel comfortable breastfeeding their baby wherever they are. Creating a wider culture of encouragement and support will help make a mother’s experience all the more positive.”
The survey also confirmed that breastfeeding in public is something that mums are concerned about. The mothers polled were most likely to say that they would feel embarrassed breastfeeding in the presence of people they don’t know (63%). 59% feel the same about partner’s family and 49% felt it about siblings and wider family members.
Minister for Public Health and Innovation Nicola Blackwood said:
“Research shows that breastfeeding gives babies the best start in life but I know it’s not always easy for new mums to start. Start4Life’s new interactive Facebook messenger ChatBot is a quick and easy way for mums to get help and information, and complements the ongoing support from their midwifery team and health visitor.”
Jacque Gerrard, Director for England at Royal College of Midwives’ said:
“Getting infant feeding right will help give new-born babies the best possible start in life. Women need all the support they can get, particularly first time mothers. It is important that midwives and maternity support workers continue to promote breastfeeding. Any initiative that goes towards helping mothers start and sustain breastfeeding for longer is positive as we know the health benefits from being breastfed last a lifetime.
High-profile figures who promote breastfeeding had a positive influence on the mums polled. Household names like Sam Faiers, Fearne Cotton and Blake Lively, who have recently championed breastfeeding on social media, inspired 49% of mums to breastfeed their own babies. Two-thirds (64%) felt more confident to breastfeed in public because of celebrity mums.”