Mums encouraged to access local support for breastfeeding
31st July 2017 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in Maternity
During Breastfeeding Awareness Week (August 1st to 7th), health organisations across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are highlighting the range of support available for mums who are breastfeeding.
Dr Tony Bentley, GP and lead clinician for children’s health at Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Breastfeeding has so many beneficial impacts on health, not just for the baby but for mothers too.
“Feeding only breast milk is recommended for the first six months of a baby’s life, where possible, giving protection from diseases and infections as well as reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and childhood leukaemia. The benefits of breastfeeding can also last right into adult life, by reducing the risk of developing type two diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Mothers benefit too, as breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and obesity.”
The proportion of women living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland who breastfeed their babies is close to the national average, with rates in the city being particularly strong. At six to eight weeks after birth, almost six out of ten mothers (58.5 per cent) in the city are breastfeeding their babies, compared with a national average of four out of ten mothers (44.1 per cent).
Jane Roberts, Children’s Public Health Commissioner at Leicestershire County Council, said: “The theme of Breastfeeding Awareness Week this year is Sustaining Breastfeeding Together and, as public health commissioners, we really appreciate the work that is carried out by our health partners, promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
“It is excellent that our local mums appreciate the value of breastfeeding but, in common with the rest of the country, the percentage of women who are breastfeeding falls by the time babies are six to eight weeks old. We would always encourage women to seek support if they are struggling, as there is a range of help available.”
Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust’s (LPT) public health nurses (health visitors) provide support to new parents across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, working alongside midwifery colleagues, Local Authority Family Centre staff and the voluntary sector. LPT holds the prestigious international ‘Baby Friendly’ accreditation in recognition of the high quality of the infant feeding support provided by its public health nursing teams.
The nurses also train a number of volunteers each year to become breastfeeding peer supporters: experienced mums who champion breastfeeding as the best choice, where possible, for parents and babies. The peer supporters help to run local breastfeeding groups, and often provide on-the-spot advice to new parents via phone and social media. Additionally, in Leicester City, LPT works with Leicester Mammas to support mums with breastfeeding.
Carole Fishwick, LPT’s infant feeding lead says: “It’s easy to say that women should breastfeed, but they need a support network in place, especially during the first six weeks. Our public health nurses (health visitors) see many women who want to breastfeed their babies but are really struggling. This is where volunteer peer supporters and organisations like Mammas provide invaluable reassurance and encouragement, helping mums to continue to breastfeed for longer.
“Breastfeeding peer supporters also have a valuable role to play in raising awareness within local communities, sometimes challenging outdated and unhelpful reactions.”
Deputy city mayor Cllr Rory Palmer, who leads on health for Leicester, said: “We’ve pledged to make Leicester a breastfeeding-friendly city and have worked hard to ensure mums know they are welcome to breastfeed in council buildings across Leicester.
“It’s good to know that rates of breastfeeding in the city are above the national average, and we’ll continue to encourage and support more new mums to breastfeed for longer.”
Breastfeeding resources and information for new parents are available on LPT’s website www.leicspart.nhs.uk/infantfeeding.