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Online advice for breastfeeding mums now includes Alexa voice service

Complementing support from healthcare professionals and breastfeeding specialists, Start4Life – Public Health England’s direct-to-public service for early years – has launched a new 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend available as a skill on the Amazon Alexa voice service

Complementing support from healthcare professionals and breastfeeding specialists, Start4Life – Public Health England’s direct-to-public service for early years – has launched a new 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend available as a skill on the Amazon Alexa voice service


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As nurses, midwives and health visitors we are privileged to share families’ journeys through pregnancy and the early weeks of life. Parents tell us how important these relationships are for receiving evidence-based and trusted advice on topics such as breastfeeding.

In the health community we are aware of the importance of breastfeeding. But despite the undoubted and well-known benefits of breastfeeding, annual data from Public Health England shows that while almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding their babies, by six to eight weeks this figure drops to just 44% (Public Health England 2017).

There are many reasons why women in England do not breastfeed, or stop after just a few weeks. The reasons can range from environments which are not ‘breastfeeding friendly’ to not knowing how to overcome a setback. Women also tell us they sometimes feel embarrassed to ask for help.

Getting started, keeping going

Advice from healthcare professionals can help women choose to breastfeed and to ‘get started’, but data show that the major challenge is support to ‘keep going’, especially if problems arise out of hours and a health professional cannot be contacted.

To help complement support and advice from healthcare professionals and breastfeeding specialists and provide mums with round-the-clock support, Start4Life – Public Health England’s direct-to-public service for early years – has launched a 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend available as a skill on the Amazon Alexa voice service.

Users can ask Alexa questions about breastfeeding and NHS-approved advice, tailored to the age of the baby, will be provided.

In addition to Facebook

The new service has been produced independently of Amazon, and is in addition to the interactive Start4life Breastfeeding Friend chatbot, accessed through Facebook Messenger, which launched last year.

A survey of 1,000 mothers of young children commissioned by Public Health England revealed that almost two-thirds of mothers (64%) felt that access to 24/7 breastfeeding support, such as a phone line, website or chatbot, would make new mothers more likely to have a positive experience of breastfeeding, as well as more likely to decide to try breastfeeding (59%) and breastfeed for longer (58%) (Kantar research for Public Health England 2018).

It was also revealed that of those who ever gave breastmilk to their first child, younger mothers were more likely than older mothers to use online sources (42% of 18 to 34-year-olds, compared with 30% of 35 to 50-year-olds).

Younger age group

These results show that mothers, particularly those in the younger age group, are drawing on online sources and digital tools more than ever to help share their breastfeeding experience.

We hope that the Breastfeeding Friend will provide support for these women on their breastfeeding journey and complement the excellent support they are already receiving from their nurses, midwives and health visitors.

With these new digital tools from Start4Life available to parents, I hope that we can encourage more women in the UK to decide to breastfeed, and once they start to carry on breastfeeding for longer.

Further information

Start4life breastfeeding help and support

Public Health England (2017) Breastfeeding at Six to Eight Weeks After Birth: Annual Data


About the author

Viv Bennett is chief nurse and director for maternity and early years at Public Health England

 

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