Chatty new friend for breastfeeding mums

This story was published 27 April 2017

The County Council is supporting a new breastfeeding initiative from Start4Life, a Public Health England programme which helps parents and parents-to-be to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Breastfeeding support group in North Yorkshire.

The new service features an interactive Breastfeeding Friend (BFF) chatbot. The BFF is a live chat facility accessed through Facebook Messenger and provides personal support for mothers, at any time of the day or night, to help to make breastfeeding a better experience. The bot works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions it is asked about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding boosts a baby's ability to fight illness and infection, including diarrhoea and respiratory infections. It also lowers a mother's risk of ovarian and breast cancer and burns about 500 calories a day.

The aim of the BFF is to dispel myths about breastfeeding and offer support and advice to mums who would like a little help or extra information in the first few days and weeks with their baby.  

A new survey of 500 mothers of young children commissioned by Public Health England showed that more than half were concerned that breastfeeding could mean they would not be able to tell if their baby was getting too much or not enough milk. The same number of mums surveyed thought that people might assume they would need a special diet to breastfeed.

Katie Needham, Consultant in Public Health for North Yorkshire, said: "The Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend is a great tool for mums in North Yorkshire who are looking for help and advice about breastfeeding. To access the breastfeeding BFF, simply open Facebook Messenger and search Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend or visit the Start4Life website to get started. 

"In addition to the breastfeeding friend chatbot, there are many other ways mothers can get breastfeeding support. The Start4Life website has a range of advice and resources which can help mothers to continue breastfeeding, as well as a dedicated helpline they can call."

New mums in North Yorkshire can also get help from breastfeeding support groups run by staff in children's centres and community venues across the county. Health visitors from Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT) are also on hand during the group meetings to give advice and information.

Katie added: "Breastfeeding is a great way to get your baby off to a good start. Although it's a natural process, breastfeeding is a skill that has to be learned by mothers and babies. We know that many people can find breastfeeding challenging in the early days and we have made changes to our service for new mums across the County, so that good quality support and help is at hand.

"We also want to ensure that all mums are supported to form a strong, loving relationship with their baby - whatever their choice of feeding method."

The breastfeeding support service is part of the County Council and the HDFT Health Visiting Service's programme to achieve Stage 2 UNICEF Baby Friendly Accreditation, the recognised accreditation programme for the promotion and support of breastfeeding. The Trust delivers the County Council's 0-5 Healthy Child Programme, which aims to help every child in the county to have the best possible start in life.

New mums or mums-to-be can find out more about breastfeeding support groups across the county by visiting the County Council website for an interactive map.