New mums in St Helens are being offered advice on how to breastfeed through a new interactive tool.
The chatbot, which can be accessed through Facebook messenger, works as a live chat tool via one-to-one messaging and push notifications.
BFF gives mums 24/7 access to expert NHS-trusted advice in a friendly and familiar way, providing clarity around breastfeeding barriers, which are often misconceptions, and helping to alleviate any concerns mums may have.
The breastfeeding rates suggest that many women who start breastfeeding feel that they cannot continue beyond six to eight weeks. Evidence has shown that getting the right support enables mums to breastfeed for longer.
Evija Redisa-Whitfield, a new mum from St Helens said: “Everyone knows that a mother’s milk is the best and I wanted to give my son Gustavas the best start in life possible.
“There was no other option in my mind, it was the natural choice.
“I’d seen mothers breast feed and it all looked so natural and easy, it wasn’t that way for us, we really struggled in the beginning.
“We struggled with the latch and had someone come out and visit (Day after discharge from hospital) to help with different positions to help the attachment.
“One side was always better than the other so the team showed me ways to correct this. Gustavas was very ‘colicky’ and a ‘windy’ baby and was constantly on and off the breast. (Baby was diagnosed with a posterior tongue by a team member at a drop in group and referred to Alder Hey) I started to express to feed as I was having so much trouble getting baby to latch at the breast apart from night / sleep feeds until Tongue Tie had been corrected.
“At three months we had sudden breast refusal so I began to solely express to feed, this proved extremely difficult due to time and I really struggled with my milk supply. The team helped with ways to increase my milk collection but we still had to offer a bottle of formula – my son reacted very badly to this and was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with a milk allergy. I then managed to express to feed cutting out all dairy from my diet and offering milk free formula on prescription. I was very disappointed that I had to offer formula top ups and I had truly intended to solely breast feed but I had to do what is best for my baby.”
Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, Deputy Director, Health & Wellbeing, PHE North West said: “Many of the mums we have spoken to have said how important support and advice is in the first few weeks of breastfeeding – although it is natural to feed your baby this way, it is a skill that needs to be learnt by both baby and mum.
“Not everyone can attend a local breastfeeding group so the Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend is a great tool that is free, quick and easy to use and can offer guidance and answer questions that are concerning parents of babies.”
Less than 44 per cent of women in England are breastfeeding once their baby reaches two months old, despite the fact that three quarters (73 per cent) of women begin doing so when their baby is born.