Health chiefs hope to make Hartlepool a breastfeeding friendly town after it was revealed to have the lowest start up rate in the country.
Currently, just under 38% of new mums begin to breastfeed their babies compared to the England average of almost 75%.
Dr Peter Brambleby, Hartlepool’s interim director of public health, says the council will work to change public attitudes, including making it more acceptable for mums to feed their babies on public transport and in cafes and restaurants.
They will also look to NHS colleagues to make sure mums are encouraged and supported.
Dr Brambleby said: “It’s normal in England for mums to at least start to breastfeed their babies, but it’s not normal in Hartlepool. It is a wake-up call to remind people that there is an issue here.
“It’s not the best start in life to miss out on breastfeeding so let’s see what we can do about it in a supportive and helpful way.”
Hartlepool’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which comprises the council, health professionals and voluntary organisations, heard a case of a mum who was asked to go in a restaurant’s changing room to breastfeed.
Dr Brambleby added: “A big part of the problem is dads, so I think part of the preparedness for having a baby is working with the dads to encourage the mums and prevent them from stopping breastfeeding.
“There’s a lot about public attitudes, making it easier for mums to go back to work to breastfeed, to make it the norm for people to be allowed to breastfeed sensitively, appropriately in restaurants and public places and not be castigated.”
He added midwives were critical to promote it.
Julie Parkes, from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said robust community services had been developed as mums spend less time in hospital after giving birth.
Ali Wilson, chief officer of Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s everybody’s business.
“It’s the most natural thing in the world and one of the things that could make the biggest difference is if the attitudes of the communities of families could be changed to be supportive so you are always reinforcing those messages that might have come from professionals.”
Dr Brambleby pointed to Gateshead, which has a similar population to Hartlepool, where the rate is close to the national average, to show it can be achieved.