New ChatBot for mums aims to help improve breastfeeding rates in England

England has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world [Photo: Getty]

For many new mums breastfeeding can be fraught with hurdles and insecurities. Confusion, about how to do it. Embarrassment, about where to do it. And desperation, when things don’t go to plan!

It’s little wonder, therefore, that new research has revealed that though almost three-quarters (73%) of women in England start breastfeeding after giving birth, less that half (44%) are still doing so two months later.

The survey of 500 mothers commissioned by Public Health England (PHE) found that fears about breastfeeding included that it could be painful (74%), prevent them taking medication (71%) and be embarrassing in front of strangers (63%).

Other concerns mums had included the worry that breastfeeding could mean they wouldn’t be able to tell if their baby was getting too much or not enough milk, which more than half feared. While a similar proportion of mums thought they might need a special diet to breastfeed.

In order to help tackle some of the worries about breastfeeding and to try and encourage mums to nurse for longer Start4Life has launched a BreastFeeding Friend (BFF) ChatBot to provide support to new mums.

BFF is accessed through Facebook Messenger and provides personal support and advice for mothers at any time of the day or night to help improve their breastfeeding experience.

The bot works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user and help dispel any myths or confusion mums might have.

“Breastfeeding, while natural, is something that all mums and their babies learn by doing,” said Viv Bennett, chief nurse at PHE.

“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.”

Start4Life have introduced a new ChatBot to help support breastfeeding mums [Photo: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO via Pexels]

The interactive tool has been praised by MPs and the Royal College of Midwives. Minister for public health and innovation Nicola Blackwood told Huffington Post UK: “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 compliments the ongoing support from their midwifery team and health visitor.”

Jacque Gerrard, director for England at the 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.”

To access the Breastfeeding BFF, simply open Facebook Messenger and search Start4Life BreastFeeding Friend or visit m.me/Start4LifeBreastFeedingFriend to get started.

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