Start4Life has launched a BreastFeeding Friend (BFF) ChatBot to provide day and night support to mums in the South West.

BFF is accessed through Facebook Messenger and provides personal support for mothers at any time of the day or night to help make breastfeeding a better experience. BFF will also dispel any breastfeeding myths and help alleviate concerns mums from South West have. The bot works as a live chat tool which is able to respond to questions about breastfeeding posed by the user.

Almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, but this drops to 44% after two months. However, evidence shows the right support helps mums to breastfeed for longer. PHE recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.

A new survey of 500 mothers of young children commissioned by PHE 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 3 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.

PHE explained that 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, and also burns around 500 calories a day.

Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse at Public Health England, explained, “Breastfeeding, while natural, is something that all mums and their babies learn by doing. Mums tell us that after the first few weeks breast feeding becomes easier, so proper support is crucial at this time, which is where our BFF is designed to help.

“We can all help women feel comfortable breastfeeding their baby wherever they are. Creating a wider culture of encouragement and support will help make a mother’s experience all the more positive.”

Rosanne Sodzi, Health & Wellbeing Programme Manager, Public Health England South West, added, “The ‘Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend’ is a great tool for mums in the South West who are looking for help and advice about breastfeeding. Support can make a real difference to successful breastfeeding, so building a network of people who can share tips and advice or attending local breastfeeding groups can also be beneficial for those who might require a bit more help.”

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

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