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Breastfeeding peer support workers are the latest initiative from NHS Bedfordshire to help support more new mothers to breast feed.
Latest figures, released during Breastfeeding Awareness Week, show that NHS Bedfordshire met its 42% target for the number of mothers breastfeeding when their babies are six to eight weeks old, and it is now working towards this year’s increased target of 52%.
Jacky Syme, UNICEF Baby Friendly Coordinator for Bedfordshire Community Health Services, said: “About 72% of women start breastfeeding when their baby is born but fewer women are still breastfeeding by the time their babies reach six to eight weeks.
“Breastfeeding has significant health benefits for both mother and baby and so we want to encourage and support mothers, who start to breastfeed, to continue for as long as they choose to do so.”
For the baby, breastfeeding reduces the risk of gastroenteritis, ear and chest infections, obesity in later life, diabetes, eczema and asthma.
For mothers, it significantly reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis in later life and also helps the mother to lose weight after birth.
Jacky added: “This year’s target is going to be a challenge but we are working on a number of initiatives to support mothers who wish to continue breastfeeding.
“Firstly it is important we increase the knowledge and skills of all the staff working with mothers and babies, so that they can offer expert support on breastfeeding.
“We are also very proud to have 16 local mothers, who have recently trained and qualified as volunteer breastfeeding peer support workers. We have a further 12 expected to qualify in July and they will be using their own experiences of breastfeeding to help new mothers.”
One issue for mothers can be finding places to breastfeed when they are out and about in Bedford. One of the first things the peer supporters have done is to produce a list of all the venues where breastfeeding is welcome in public. This information is available on the NHS Bedfordshire website, as are details of breastfeeding support helpline numbers, which mothers can even call ‘out of hours’, and a list of the local breastfeeding support groups.
Mothers and babies will have a comfortable place to breastfeed in the NHS Bedfordshire marquee at this year’s River Festival.
To hear the full interview with Jacky Syme, UNICEF Baby Friendly Coordinator for Bedfordshire Community Health Services click here.