Local figures fall way below the national average and reveal that fewer women breastfeed their babies in the Merseyside region than anywhere else in the country.
Health staff are concerned about the long-term effects of mothers not breastfeeding and this has prompted a highly unique step by four PCTs in the region to jointly launch a new campaign ‘Breast milk it’s amazing’ to promote the benefits of breastfeeding on June 22nd.
In a bid to improve breastfeeding figures, NHS Knowsley, Liverpool Primary Care Trust, NHS Sefton and NHS Wirral are working together to raise awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies in an attempt to make Merseyside breastfeeding friendly.
“There is overwhelming scientific evidence that breastfeeding has extensive short and long term health benefits for women and their babies. The aim of the campaign is to increase breastfeeding rates across Merseyside and improve the health of our local population. By taking the unique approach of all four PCTs working together we have jointly invested, both in the campaign and comprehensive breastfeeding support programmes.” said Janet Atherton Director of Public Health for NHS Sefton.
The World Health Organisation and the Department of Health recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months because of its extensive health benefits. It is the optimal nutrition for babies and can reduce the incidence of infections and allergies such as eczema and asthma. In addition, as breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories a day it can help new mums return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
There are also many environmental benefits from breastfeeding as there is no wastage or packaging.
Finally, as it’s free it can save families 500 pounds a year.
In the past many celebrity mums have tried to encourage more mothers to breastfeed. Famously Angelina Jolie appeared on the front cover of a famous American fashion magazine in November 2008, breastfeeding one of her twins.
Liverpool’s own Atomic Kitten pop singer, Jenny Frost, 32, said when talking about breastfeeding her son Casper: “Before I had my wee man Caspar I wasn’t all that into the idea, but now I just know it’s the best start you can give your baby.”
Catherine Zeta-Jones said “I’m going to do it as long as I can, there is something so intimate about it.”
Figures show that only just over half of new mums in Liverpool try to breastfeed at birth, decreasing to a quarter of all mums by the time the baby is just six to eight weeks old.
Figures across Merseyside show that women are more likely to pay for formula milk rather than use what mother-nature gave them.
In the Knowsley area only 40 per cent of women breastfed their children at birth and in Wirral only 53 per cent did.
Across the region, Sefton boasted the highest figure with 56 per cent of breastfeeding mums, but this still falls way below the national average.
When compared with the national average of 78 per cent, Merseyside statistics need to drastically increase, according to health officials, who are worried that not enough mothers are breastfeeding.
Dr Rob Barnett, a GP at Greenbank Road Surgery who has practiced in Liverpool for more than 23 years and is Secretary of the Local Medical Committee, says: “Basically if you are in a family where no one has breastfed before, you haven’t got any role models to follow.
“From my experience as a doctor dealing with patients, for some women it is fairly straightforward, but others are not so sure about what they’re doing. This initiative is about making them more comfortable and reassuring them.
“It’s important to let mothers know there is support to encourage women to persevere if things aren’t going right, so mothers don’t just cut their losses and switch to a bottle.
“There’s a lot of effort that has been put into the healthcare economy to support midwives, healthcare visitors and mothers.
“This campaign is giving the right, positive message. It is not only talking about it being easy and convenient, but also it is showing the benefits for the baby and mum.
“Breastfeeding is normal, acceptable, provides the best protection for the child and is good for bonding.”
Cathie Kelly, a 42-year-old mother-of-two, who has been a midwife for 20 years, and breastfed her own children, currently working as a Community outpatient Matron for Wirral University Teaching Hospital said: “I’ve spoken to mums who didn’t breastfeed and they felt like they missed out.
“Even if you’re unsure I would advise people to keep their minds open, as it’s a lovely experience.
“People also need to be aware that research has shown that breastfeeding can reduce breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and can reduce osteoporosis.
“I breastfed my children, it was challenging for the first couple of weeks, but once it was established, breastfeeding made my life so much easier, I didn’t have to think about sterilising equipment. “
It is well recognised by professionals that breastfeeding helps to reduce many baby ailments, such as gastroenteritis, allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, diarrhoea and respiratory infection, and the joint PCT initiative is expected to provide cost savings for the NHS.
Recent NHS figures show that a 1% increase in the breastfeeding rate would save approximately £672,000 annually across the country.