‘Breastfeeding Friend’ chatbot gives 24/7 breastfeeding help to new mothers

The sad truth is fewer than half of babies in England are being breastfed at six to eight weeks.

A new survey of 1,000 mothers reveals nearly two-thirds believe ­access to 24/7 breastfeeding support would help new mums to have a ­positive ­experience of breastfeeding.

While almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, by six to eight weeks this drops to just 44%, making breastfeeding rates in England among the lowest in the world.

The mum survey, commissioned by Public Health England, revealed that in hindsight many mothers wished they had been better prepared for breastfeeding.

Before the birth of their first child, mums’ biggest priorities were buying baby equipment, preparing for labour and buying baby clothes.

After the birth, nearly a quarter wished they’d paid more attention to breastfeeding.

We know the right support helps mothers to breastfeed for longer.

The NHS programme Start4Life has created the chatbot ‘Breastfeeding Friend’ to help. It’s available for free on a range of platforms, such as Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa.

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. This is round-the-clock support when mothers need it most.

The survey also highlighted that almost a third of mothers feel ­embarrassed asking healthcare staff for help with breast feeding. Plus many mothers find breastfeeding ­challenging and give up.

With access to 24/7 breastfeeding support, such as a phone line, website or chatbot, many new mums felt they’d be more likely to try breastfeeding and breastfeed for longer.

Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England, said: “Breastfeeding, while natural, is something that mothers and babies learn together, and while learning, women may have questions and setbacks.

“Public Health England is working with health professionals to make sure that women are not embarrassed to ask questions about feeding and receive timely help.

“Health professionals will always 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 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.”

Three cheers!

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