HEALTH experts are urging new mums to think “breast is best” when it comes to feeding their babies.
Figures show that between 42 and 47 per cent of Hartlepool women breast-feed their babies at birth, compared to the national average of 72 per cent.
The number of mums still breast-feeding after six to eight weeks has seen a recent six per cent rise to 23 per cent, compared to the North-East average of 30 per cent.
But health bosses say the figures fluctuate due to new mums and are keen to see the numbers consistently rise through a range of initiatives.
Among them are plans for a new mum-to-mum support programme after Hartlepool was awarded £50,000 from the Department of Health after being chosen for a pilot scheme.
Officers are currently working on plans for the pilot, which would see mums speak to each other and share information about breast-feeding.
Members of Hartlepool Borough Council’s health scrutiny forum were given a presentation on the benefits of breast-feeding, as opposed to bottle feeding, at a recent meeting.
Annie Wallace, breast-feeding co-ordinator based at Hindpool Children’s Centre, said: “Hartlepool as a town has started to take this issue seriously.
“Building blocks are being put in place including setting up support groups and creating a breast-feeding strategy.
“It will take patience and perseverance but it can be achieved if we win the battle of hearts and minds and tackle myths surrounding breast-feeding.”
She also moved to reassure councillors that midwives and health visitors are at the forefront of pushing the “breast is best” message.
Other initiatives include a scheme aimed at providing a “welcoming environment” for breast-feeding mums in retail shops, businesses and council-run buildings.
Meanwhile, health teams, nursery nurse staff and children’s centre staff will all be given training sessions on breast-feeding over the next few months.
There is also no advertising of breast milk substitutes in children’s centres.
Independent councillor Alison Lilley backed the drive to get more mums to breast feed, but said it will take a cultural change away from using a bottle.
For more information about breast-feeding call Ms Wallace at Hindpool Children’s Centre, on (01429) 292555.