Calls have been made for more work to encourage breastfeeding in Hartlepool, with the area having the lowest start-up rate in the country.
Figures from the Hartlepool Borough Council annual report 2017/18 from the director of public health shows just 38% of new mums breastfeed in Hartlepool, making it the worst performing authority in England.
This is a 11.7% decline in the last two years from 49.6% to 37.9% and below the average for England of 79% and the North East of 59%.
In the same period both the England and North East averages have increased by 0.2%.
Councillors on the children’s services committee warned the figures were concerning and urged health bosses to do as much as they could to improve the rate.
Coun Ann Marshall said: “It’s disappointing the levels of breastfeeding in Hartlepool, I can’t understand why because it’s the cheapest form of feeding the baby and the healthiest.
“I think the first two years of everybody’s life are the most important, I think the first two years set you up for the rest of your life.”
Coun Sue Little said: “It should be down to the midwife to discuss it with them.
“I think when you go in for that first initial appointment all the good points and all the negative points about bottle feeding should be laid out.
“Not enough mams realise breastfeeding helps you lose weight.”
The figures were in the report, titled ‘best start in life’ written by the interim director of public health for Hartlepool authority, Dr Peter Brambleby.
The report states the figures have been the focus of discussion between the area’s own 0-19 nursing services, the hospital midwifery services and the Clinical Commissioning Group in a bid to make improvements.
Dr Brambleby said: “The main focus is in midwifery and it’s about before the baby is born and what the mums and dads feeding intentions are for the baby, because dads have a role to play in this as well.
“We need to get the intention to breastfeed in before the baby is born because once the baby is there it’s a bit late to start the discussion.
“There are things we can do as a town to make breastfeeding an easier and more acceptable offer.
“It is a big problem and I think it’s one of the main things we can do for our children, because it’s such a marker for everything else.
“If you crack that you crack quite a few parenting problems.”
Members on the committee also encouraged the full report to be shared with schools so young people can find out about what the outlook is like for the town where they live across a range of issues.
The report aims to offer a snapshot of health and wellbeing in Hartlepool providing a variety of statistics and looking at drugs and alcohol services, public health and challenges.
Dr Brambleby said: “There’s several topics related to getting the best start in life, it’s a mixed picture, some good, some bad, lots of challenges.
“I think Hartlepool has a lot going for it and there’s a lot of positives going forward.”
Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service