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New online ‘BFF’ set to support borough’s breastfeeding mums

29 March 2017

Kelly Trowers, Sheree Edwards and Annie-Mae Hughes, Councillor Janet Emsley

Local mums and mums-to-be can get support to breastfeed and adopt healthy lifestyles thanks to a new interactive tool.

The BreastFeeding Friend (BFF) ChatBot, from the Start4Life - Public Health England (PHE) programme, aims to provide personal support for mothers at any time of the day or night to help make breastfeeding a better experience.

It also aims to dispel any breastfeeding myths and help relieve any concerns mums may have such as; "will I be able to tell if my baby is getting too much or not enough milk?" and "do I need to have a special diet to breastfeed?"

The bot is accessed through Facebook messenger and works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user.

"You don't need to feel alone anymore, support is available to help you"

Public Health England (PHE) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life however, just 34.9 percent of mums in the borough of Rochdale are breastfeeding once their baby reaches two months old.

Evidence shows that breastfeeding boosts a baby's ability to fight illness and infection such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections. It also lowers a mother's risk of ovarian and breast cancer, and burns around 500 calories a day.

It is hoped that support services such as the ChatBot will encourage mums to breastfeed for longer and increase the number of new mums opting to breastfeed in the first place.

The BFF ChatBot is just one of the tools available to support breastfeeding mums in the borough of Rochdale.

"We can all help women feel comfortable breastfeeding their baby wherever they are"

There are currently 80 venues, including cafes, shops and hairdressers, across the borough that are signed up to the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme, which aims to help mums to feel more comfortable feeding their babies when out in the community. Information and advice is also available from local peer supporters.

Councillor Janet Emsley, Rochdale Borough Council's cabinet member for culture, health and wellbeing, said: "Ensuring our borough's children get the best start in life is really important and we have been doing some great work to enable that to happen. Breastfeeding really is the best way to give babies the vitamins and nutrients they need to protect them from illness throughout their lives.

"The 'Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend' is another great tool available for mums who are looking for help and advice about breastfeeding. You don't need to feel alone anymore, support is available to help you so I urge all our mums to make the most of it."

Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England, said: "Breastfeeding, while natural, is something that all mums and their babies learn by doing. Mums tell us that after the first few weeks breast feeding becomes easier, so proper support is crucial at this time, which is where our BFF is designed to help.

"We can all help women feel comfortable breastfeeding their baby wherever they are. Creating a wider culture of encouragement and support will help make a mother's experience all the more positive."

More information about breastfeeding in the Rochdale borough.

To access the Breastfeeding BFF, simply open Facebook Messenger and search Start4Life BreastFeeding Friend.

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