New and expectant mothers on the Fylde Coast are being encouraged to breastfeed their babies by local doctors and national bodies.

In England, almost three quarters of mothers start breastfeeding (73%), but this drops to under half (44%) at six-to-eight weeks.

In Blackpool only 62 per cent start breast feeding and in Lancashire the figure is 69 per cent.

Public Health England recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months to give them the best start in life. This is because breast milk boosts babies’ ability to fight illness and infection at this young age. Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer for the mother.

Now, a new interactive ‘Start4Life BreastFeeding Friend’ (BFF) ChatBot has been launched nationally to support mothers at any time of the day or night to help make breastfeeding a better experience. The bot works as a live chat tool through Facebook messenger and is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user, helping to dispel myths and provide advice.

It comes as a survey of 500 mothers of young children commissioned by Public Health England showed that more than half were concerned that breastfeeding could mean they wouldn’t be able to tell if their baby was getting too much or not enough milk.

A similar proportion of mums surveyed thought that people might assume they need a special diet to breastfeed. Nearly three in 10 worried that breastfeeding could mean their baby might not be getting the right nutrients, indicating why mothers may stop breastfeeding at this early point.

Speaking on behalf of the Blackpool and Fylde and Wyre NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG), Dr Amanda Doyle, a Blackpool GP and chief clinical officer at NHS Blackpool CCG, said: “Breastfeeding boosts a baby’s ability to fight illness and infection.

“Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and respiratory infections. It also lowers a mother’s risk of ovarian and breast cancer as well as burning up to 500 calories. With so many benefits to preventing illness it is important that more mothers start and continue breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding, while natural, is something that all mums and their babies learn by doing. The ‘Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend’ is a great tool for mums who are looking for help and advice about breastfeeding.”

For more information, advice and tips on breastfeeding visit www.nhs.uk/start4life.

To access the BFF ChatBot, simply open Facebook Messenger and search Start4Life BreastFeeding Friend or visit m.me/Start4LifeBreastFeedingFriend to get started.