Should there be more breastfeeding support for mums? New figures show decline after six weeks
PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:39 10 March 2019
Mothers of newborn babies in Essex and Suffolk say they have been forced to turn to social media for breastfeeding support, as statistics reveal that those still breastfeeding at six to eight weeks continues to decline.
Emma Sandean, from Clacton, started up her own Facebook group for those looking for support in Essex after noticing the lack of advice offered to new mothers.
Emma, who breastfed both of her children in 2015 and 2018, moved to Wales when her first child was born and immediately noticed the difference in the support offered.
She said: “If I had lived back in Essex when I was bringing up my child I wouldn’t have breastfed as I’ve got no friends or family who have done so successfully in the area. I started the Essex group to offer advice to mothers as I know from experience that I felt like the minority in Essex and the judgement just gets worse as you get older.”
Emma breastfed her first child for two-and-a-half years after finding out the health benefits of feeding. She argues there is not enough support easily available for those on the brink of giving up.
What do the stats say?
Annual data released by Public Health England shows that in 2017/18 only 31.7% of mothers were still breastfeeding at six to eight weeks in Essex, compared to the national average of 42.7%.
This is the lowest numbers of women breastfeeding in Essex since data was recorded in 2015.
In Suffolk, the numbers have risen slightly from 46% in 2016/17 to 47.6% in 2017/18.
‘Support should not stop at six weeks’
Nia Harris, from Clacton, is also a mum-of-two who says she had to “actively look for support” and was disappointed by healthcare professionals not being “up to date with the latest medication and best practises for breastfeeding mums”.
She said: “I breastfed my eight-year-old son until he was eleven months old through an undiagnosed tongue tie. This was horrendous as no healthcare professional I saw could spot it and I could not afford private care.”
She added: “The support I have gained from groups on social media has been phenomenal whilst feeding my second child and a great source of information, however it would be nice to have had the same level of support face to face besides family members.”
Nia received visits from her health visitor every week for six weeks after both of her children were born, but she felt as though she was left to it from this point onwards.
She said: “Support should not stop just at six weeks, there are different challenges you face throughout your breastfeeding journey however long that may be and better training and up to date funding is essential in this area.”
Suffolk mum says there have been improvements in support
Tara Sorhaindo from Ipswich, who is also a mother-of-two, is pleased by the improvements in support offered in Suffolk.
She had her first child seven years ago and believes that now there is no longer the same stigma around breastfeeding, especially doing it in public.
She said: “When I had my first child I didn’t have a lot of support - but now with the help of social media, more support groups, and more knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding, I have gained so much more confidence with my newborn and I am still breastfeeding nine months on.”
When Tara had her first child in 2012 she only breastfed for two weeks and felt isolated and unsure about where she could publicly breastfeed. Now there is more publicly advertised benefits of breastfeeding and mums know more about the science behind it.
What officials say in response - and the launch of a breastfeeding app
Dionne Wilson, public health specialist leading on breastfeeding in Essex, said: “There is not one specific factor that has impacted on breastfeeding rates across Essex, rather an accumulation of lack of antenatal education, lack of early/community breastfeeding support and inconsistent professional information.
“There are plans to expand our baby antenatal workshops and increase staff, along with recruiting breastfeeding volunteer peer supporters across Essex.
“All staff at ECFWS will be trained and updated by the midpoint of 2019 - to help support new mothers.”
James Reeder, the Cabinet Member for Health at Suffolk County Council, said: “Breastfeeding contributes to the health of both the mother and child in the short and long term. It enables the child to receive antibodies which stimulate the immune system and prevent certain infections and reduces the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancers.”
On 25 March 2019, the council will be launching the ‘Suffolk Breastfeeding app’ which will offer mothers support through various resources such as videos and peer support. In addition to this training and commitment by Suffolk County Council’s health care partners has helped to increase the number of mothers breastfeeding at their 6-8-week check, according to Mr Reeder.
He continued: “Across Suffolk we are also working towards the UNICEF Baby Friendly initiative which involves developing health care policies to support mothers who choose to breastfeed and training staff to gain new skills that will help support mothers further.”
Essex County Council were approached for comment.