National Breastfeeding Awareness Week takes place between 8th and 14th May this year, and is co-ordinated by the Department of Health. The aim is to draw attention to the enjoyment and health protection that breastfeeding gives mothers and babies. Support from family, friends and health professionals is very important for new mothers. Research has shown that the partner's active support is invaluable in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.

Government surveys show that many mothers give up breastfeeding in the first couple of weeks, mostly because they encounter problems. It is important for everyone to understand why difficulties may arise, and how to prevent or overcome them. At St Peter's hospital, around 80% of mothers start breastfeeding, and many need close support in the early days. The Infant Feeding Advisers, Kim McHarg and Alison Blenkinsop, provide 3-weekly interactive workshops for mothers in the last few weeks of pregnancy, in preparation for the reality of breastfeeding. They give training in lactation management to midwives, maternity care assistants, paediatricians and others involved in maternity care. Consistent advice is encouraged by the use of guidelines for practice, based on the best and most recent evidence. Alison and Kim also give support on the postnatal ward, and run drop-in clinics in both Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals each week, with help from other breastfeeding specialists.

Breastfeeding Week also highlights the right of mothers to feed babies whenever and wherever they like. The Government recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, as this provides everything babies need and protects mothers' health. Mothers are encouraged to continue nursing through the months and years of weaning. This requires good support in the community, with appropriate facilities for nursing mums when shopping or visiting leisure facilities. Working mums have a right to request time and privacy to express their milk for their babies.

Infant Feeding Adviser at Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Trust, Alison Blenkinsop says: “More breastfeeding will lead to a healthier and wealthier nation, so we all need to support this special week!”

More information on breastfeeding and publicity materials are available from:

All the voluntary breastfeeding support organisations have their own website: NCT, La Leche League, Breastfeeding Network and Association of Breastfeeding Mothers.

Contact the Infant Feeding Advisers on 01932 722678, and pop into the lobby of Abbey Wing at St Peter's Hospital to view the display of posters and leaflets during the second week of May.


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