Health professionals in Lancashire and South Cumbria are raising awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and at the same time highlighting the support available to mothers.
This week it’s National Breastfeeding Week (18-24 September) and the theme is ‘everyone has a part to play in helping mums to breastfeed’.
Breastfeeding a baby is a skill that takes time to get the hang of and it can sometimes feel overwhelming in the beginning but there are numerous benefits for both baby and mother.
Breast milk not only contains the best vitamins and minerals for the baby, but it also offers protection from certain infections and helps improve the baby’s long-term health.
For mums, breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin that helps mothers feel calm and connected to their baby and it can also protect mum’s health as it lowers the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis (weak bones), diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Shel Banks, prevention coordinator for infant feeding at NHS Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board, said: “Breastfeeding is great for both mothers and babies. It helps build a strong bond and is good for the babies’ overall health.
“Breast milk provides all the nutrition babies need in their first six months and boosts their ability to fight illness and infection. Babies who aren’t breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and chest infections.
“But, as with anything new, it’s something mothers need to learn how to do and it’s common to experience the odd set back and that’s why support is available.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations include exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life with continuation of breastfeeding as a part of the child’s diet throughout the first year and beyond.
For a baby to breastfeed, it needs to latch on and a lot of people assume that a baby latching on comes naturally, but in reality, it’s more of a skill that mother and baby need to learn together. For a step-by-step guide on latching on, please visit: Latching on – How to breastfeed – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
If you have any questions about breastfeeding, here are a few resources you can access:
- There is the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212 – this is available between 9.30am and 9.30pm, 365 days a year. All support is provided by highly trained volunteer peer supporters.
- Visit the Start for Life website for helpful information. You can also sign up to receive weekly emails and videos with advice about pregnancy, birth and parenthood.
- Ask your midwife or health visitor for a copy of the “Off to the Best Start” leaflet.
- For local support and useful contacts, visit www.healthierlsc.co.uk/BreastFeeding
- Mothers can also access the Anya app (www.anya.health) with free upgrades for users in Lancashire and Blackpool local authority areas.
To access the Start for Life website, follow this link – Breastfeeding help and support – Start for Life – NHS (www.nhs.uk).