NEW mums are being encouraged to make use of the wide support network available in Fife to help them to breastfeed their babies.
The latest statistics showing that only 25 per cent of mothers in the region are still breastfeeding six weeks after the birth of their children, putting Fife in sixth place out of Scotland’s 12 health boards.
Breastfeeding support workers, employed by NHS Fife, say that the statistics vary widely across the region.
Around half of mums in the Kingdom’s more affluent north east continue to breastfeed after six weeks - but that figure is just one in five in poorer areas such as Lochgelly and Levenmouth.
There are also clear patterns related to age, with younger women less likely to breastfeed.
Over 60 per cent of women in Fife initiate breastfeeding but almost a third stop in the first 10 days. Another third stop between 10 days and 6 weeks.
Breastfeeding support workers are employed throughout Fife to try to minimise this early cessation.
Gina Graham, breastfeeding support co-ordinator with NHS Fife, said: “Our workers proactively contact new mums shortly after they get home from hospital to see how breastfeeding is going and to provide reassurance, information and support to help in the early days when it can sometimes be quite challenging.
“This includes telephone support and one-to-one support at home and this can continue as long as required. Their role complements support routinely given by community midwives and health visitors – and they also have strong links with the 12 breastfeeding groups and cafes across Fife, helping to facilitate some of them.
“There are breastfeeding support workers in all three Community Health Partnership areas in Fife and we have recently employed additional workers to also provide support at weekends.”
A spokesman for NHS Fife said: “Three localities have met the 33 per cent target exclusively breastfed at 6-8 weeks - Dalgety Bay and Inverkeithing, Cupar/Howe of Fife and St Andrew.
‘‘In the last quarter, figures have increased slightly.”
Breastfeeding support is offered through a number of approaches delivered by midwives, and health visitors.
A breastfeeding peer support team has been established to enhance the support available.
It offers home based one to one intensive support for women discharged from Forth Park Hospital, Kirkcaldy.
Support workers are women who live in the community and have chosen to breastfeed their children so they are able to draw on their own experiences to help others.