'Chatbot' will give new mums extra support when breastfeeding

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 April 2018

Cath and her daughter.

Cath and her daughter.

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A North Somerset mum has urged women like her to 'ask for help' if they struggle to breastfeed, after figures revealed most new mothers give up after the first month.

Public Health England (PHE) found fewer than half of the babies in England are breast fed at six to eight weeks after it revealed most women stopped due to lack of knowledge on the subject.

It conducted a survey of 1,000 mothers of young children where 26 per cent wished they had read up on the subject.

But PHE hopes to reduce this number by launching its programme Start4Life which creates a 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend to encourage parents to adopt healthy behaviours.

The programme works via ‘chatbot’ across Facebook Messenger and Amazon Alexa as mums can ask questions about breastfeeding and the answers will be tailored to baby’s age.

The survey, carried out by the PHE, found 33 per cent of 1,000 were embarrassed about asking for help from health professionals.

Catherine Davies, aged 40, said the first few weeks of being a mother ‘emotionally stressful’ after having trouble breastfeeding her daughter.

She said: “I have breastfed both my children but found breastfeeding for the first time with my daughter difficult.

“She had problems latching on and the only way I could breastfeed was sat up which was quite painful after a traumatic labour.

“I found support from those around me particularly helpful, my husband, my sister, the GP and the hospital midwife were excellent.

“I think it is important to ask for help from lots of different places, for me, the GP and family were great.”

Mrs Davies, from Hewish, said, once she got through the first stage, she found the ‘emotional bond’ between her and her children ‘lovely’.

PHE recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months as it boosts a baby’s ability to fight illness and infection, and babies who are not breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and chest infections.

Health and wellbeing programme manager for PHE South West, Rosanne Sodzi, said: “We know breastfeeding is an area many mothers need support with and we know this can be particularly difficult out of hours – this is when the chatbot is really useful.”

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