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



Child and maternal health statistics

Updated statistics to support improvements in decision making when planning services for pregnant women, children, young people and families | Public Health England

Contents include:

  1. Overview of child health and child health profiles
  2. Pregnancy and birth statistics
  3. Breastfeeding statistics
  4. Early years statistics
  5. School-age children statistics
  6. Young people statistics
  7. Health visitor service delivery metrics
  8. Child development outcomes at 2 to 2 and a half years metrics

Full detail at Public Health England


Duration of Breastfeeding and Risk of SIDS: An Individual Participant Data Meta-analysis

John M.D. Thompson, Kawai Tanabe, Rachel Y. Moon, Edwin A. Mitchell, Cliona McGarvey, David Tappin, Peter S. Blair, Fern R. Hauck. Pediatrics Vol. 140 No. 5 November 01, 2017

CONTEXT: Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is a leading cause of postneonatal infant mortality. Our previous meta-analyses showed that any breastfeeding is protective against SIDS with exclusive breastfeeding conferring a stronger effect.The duration of breastfeeding required to confer a protective effect is unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the associations between breastfeeding duration and SIDS.

DATA SOURCES: Individual-level data from 8 case-control studies.

STUDY SELECTION: Case-control SIDS studies with breastfeeding data.

DATA EXTRACTION: Breastfeeding variables, demographic factors, and other potential confounders were identified. Individual-study and pooled analyses were performed.

RESULTS: A total of 2267 SIDS cases and 6837 control infants were included. In multivariable pooled analysis, breastfeeding for <2 months was not protective (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 0.91, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.68–1.22). Any breastfeeding ≥2 months was protective, with greater protection seen with increased duration (2–4 months: aOR: 0.60, 95% CI: 0.44–0.82; 4–6 months: aOR: 0.40, 95% CI: 0.26–0.63; and >6 months: aOR: 0.36, 95% CI: 0.22–0.61). Although exclusive breastfeeding for <2 months was not protective (aOR: 0.82, 95% CI: 0.59–1.14), longer periods were protective (2–4 months: aOR: 0.61, 95% CI: 0.42–0.87; 4–6 months: aOR: 0.46, 95% CI: 0.29–0.74).

LIMITATIONS: The variables collected in each study varied slightly, limiting our ability to include all studies in the analysis and control for all confounders.

CONCLUSIONS: Breastfeeding duration of at least 2 months was associated with half the risk of SIDS. Breastfeeding does not need to be exclusive to confer this protection.


Breastfeeding and vitamin D

The UK Royal College of Paediatrics  and Child Health guidance on breastfeeding has been warmly welcomed in both the medical and lay spheres | Archives of Disease in Childhood


Breastfeeding has undoubted benefits and should be singularly promoted and encouraged. However, in their position statement, the college omits to mention the importance of vitamin D supplementation for breastfed children and lactating women in the UK. This is an important measure to support women and children and ensure their health during this period. Hypovitaminosis D is exceedingly common in the UK with rates as high as 20% for adults and 8%–24% for children depending on gender and age

Full reference: Uzoigwe, C.E. & Ali, O. (2017) Breastfeeding and vitamin D. Archives of Disease in Childhood Published Online First: 14 September 2017.

Skin-to-skin contact improves breastfeeding of healthy babies

Early skin-to-skin contact improves breastfeeding of healthy full-term babies. | National Institute for Health Research

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Skin-to-skin contact is the direct contact between a naked baby and the mother’s bare chest. It can occur before or after the baby is cleaned following birth.

This review found that about a quarter more women who have this contact with their babies are still breastfeeding at one to four months after birth compared with those who don’t. The evidence that skin-to-skin contact may also help to stabilise the baby’s heart and breathing rates and blood sugar levels after birth was based on fewer trials and less strong.

These findings support UK good practice to promote immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth to improve breastfeeding rates. It remains one of the important steps recommended by NICE and UNICEF aimed at improving the low rates of breastfeeding in the UK. Other measures include providing a favourable environment, support and education.

Full reference: Moore ER, Bergman N, Anderson GC, Medley N. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;11:CD003519.

New resource to reduce barriers to breastfeeding

Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England have conducted a survey which found that of the three-quarters of the new mums who start breastfeeding, only 40% were still breastfeeding two months later.

To help dispel some of the concerns women have about breastfeeding, PHE’s Start4 life programme has launched a new interactive Breastfeeding Friend (BFF) ChatBot. The BFF can be accessed through Facebook messenger and provides personal support for mothers at any time of the day or night. The ChatBot works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user.

Read more on this at Public Health England