Welcome to the Child & Maternal Health online newsfeed. Here you’ll find all the latest research, news stories, policy updates and guidelines. View our other newsfeeds for more subject-specific news.


New technology supports new mums to breastfeed

Public Health England’s Start4Life and Amazon Alexa helping mothers to breastfeed for longer | Public Health England

Almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, however by 6 to 8 weeks this drops to just 44%. This makes breastfeeding rates in England among the lowest in the world.


Evidence shows the right support helps mothers to breastfeed for longer. A recent survey found that almost two thirds (64%) felt that access to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week breastfeeding support, such as a phoneline, website or chatbot, would make new mothers:

  • more likely to have a positive experience of breastfeeding
  • more likely to decide to try breastfeeding (59%)
  • breastfeed for longer (58%)

PHE’s programme Start4Life has created the Breastfeeding Friend to encourage parents to adopt healthy behaviours. It is available for free on a range of platforms, including Facebook Messenger, and now for the first time it will also be available as a skill for Amazon Alexa’s voice service.

Mothers can ask Alexa a variety of questions about breastfeeding and the answers will be provided tailored to the age of the baby. This means that they can get helpful advice even when their hands are full.

Full details at Public Health England


The long-lasting impact of postnatal depression on families

A new piece of research is the first to consider the impact of postnatal depression (PND) on the mother-child relationship in the longer-term, and on intergenerational relationships. (via Science Daily)

mother-3166806_1920The researchers from the University of Kent surveyed over 300 women (predominantly from the UK and US) with  an average age of 60 and who had given birth to an average of 2.2 children. Their children ranged in age from 8 to 48, with an average age of 29 and many of whom now had their own children. This wide-ranging data set allowed them to assess the impact of PND over a longer time frame than has been hitherto examined. They used their responses to this retrospective questionnaire study to assess the consequences of PND across two generations, the original mother-child relationship (generation 1) across the life of the child (generation 2) and the quality of the relationship they had with their child’s child/ren (generation 3).


A guide to support maternity champions

NHS Improvement have published this guide to support maternity safety champions at every levels (fron line, trust board and regional).  It outlines the role descriptions and responsibilities for maternity safety champions,  suggests activities to promote best practice, and also signposts existing safety initiatives and improvements that can offer support. The full guide is available from NHS Improvement here .

maternity guide
Image source: NHS Improvement 



Maternity care guideline

Intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience | The World Health Organization

Image source: http://www.who.int

This guideline brings together new and existing WHO recommendations that, when delivered as a package, will ensure good-quality and evidence-based care irrespective of the setting or level of health care.

It highlights the importance of woman-centred care to optimize the experience of labour and childbirth for women and their babies.

Full document: Intrapartum care for a positive childbirth experience


Additional links: WHO press release | Royal College of Midwives press release

A school-based lifestyle intervention didn’t help children avoid unhealthy weight gain

Wyatt K, Lloyd J, Creanor S, et al. Cluster randomised controlled trial and economic and process evaluation to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a novel intervention [Healthy Lifestyles Programme (HeLP)] to prevent obesity in school children. Public Health Res. 2018;6(1).

The Healthy Lifestyle Programme delivered to 9-10-year-old school children did not reduce their weight over the course of two years. Around a third remained overweight or obese, the same as iBiken schools that followed the standard syllabus.

This trial, funded by the NIHR, assigned schools across Devon to follow a lifestyle programme in Year five. The comprehensive curriculum included drama and activity workshops, personal goal setting and parental involvement.

Children made better food choices, but this did not affect weight outcomes. It was almost certain the programme wouldn’t give value for money.

Programmes addressing the wider school environment or delivered at the community or population level may have greater scope for preventing obesity.

Takeaways linked to increased cardiovascular risk factors and obesity in children

Donin AS, Nightingale CM, Owen CG, et al. Takeaway meal consumption and risk markers for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity in children aged 9-10 years: a cross-sectional study. Arch Dis Child. 2017

Children who eat takeaways once or more each week have more body fat and higher low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol levels than those who never or hardly evefish-and-chipsr eat them. Their diets were also higher in fat and lower in protein and calcium.

This cross-sectional study looked in depth at eating habits and risk markers for coronary heart disease, obesity and diabetes in 2,529 children in England. Though this type of study can only show an association between takeaways and risk markers, it is one of the first of its type, and the results do give cause for concern.

Increasing numbers of people are eating takeaways in the UK. Local authorities and healthcare professionals are well placed to encourage parents and children to choose healthier foods, in line with current national guidance.

Healthy Child Programme: rapid review on safeguarding

Public Health England, 12 February 2018

The Healthy Child Programme sets out the recommended framework of universal and progressive services for children and young people in England to promote their health and wellbeing.

The purpose of this rapid review is to update the evidence regarding safeguarding guidance, focusing on prevention and early intervention.

The review looks at relevant systematic review level evidence, supplemented with some primary impact evaluations in the areas of preventing or intervening early with:

  • child abuse and neglect
  • child sexual abuse and exploitation
  • intimate partner violence
  • female genital mutilation
  • gang violence