A LOCAL authority is to enhance its breastfeeding support to mums giving birth at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is to give a grant of £183,000 to East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) to provide extra specialist staff in its wards and birthing unit.

The money will pay for three new workers.

This will enable the trust to expand the current infant feeding peer support service from 54 hours over five days they currently provide to 75 hours over seven days.

A report to senior colleagues by Blackburn with Darwen children's services boss Cllr Julie Gunn says: "Breast milk is the most nutritious source of food for infants and has numerous health benefits for both mother and baby, including improved child health and cognitive development, maternal health, and mother-infant bonding.

"Not breastfeeding is associated with a higher prevalence of childhood obesity and medical conditions such as gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases, allergies, otitis media, and dental disease. It is also associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in the mother, and a successful breastfeeding experience can protect against mental health issues such as postnatal depression.

"To deliver this additional provision, ELHT will recruit three infant feeding support workers.

"It will also pay for an increase in the hospital's infant feeding specialist’s hours backdated from October 1.

"Blackburn with Darwen have good breastfeeding initiation rates, currently 72 per cent, however we see a drop at six to eight weeks to 53 per cent.

"Band three baby-friendly support workers offer ward support to families on the postnatal ward, to help establish breastfeeding (using breast pumps if necessary) advising around breastfeeding in the neonatal wards and signposting to local help for when families are back at home.

"This support currently provided by two members of staff operates for 54 hours a week Monday to Friday 8am to 3pm.

"By increasing the hours to 75 once the additional workers are recruited, the service could extend in the evening (to around 8pm) and include weekends, reducing the likelihood of parents missing this valuable support.

"This additional support will also include an element of community support and could include home visits to those experiencing feeding difficulties.

"We will also expect the worker will contact breastfeeding mothers at the 10-day mark.

"Our data tells us this is the key point when women stop breastfeeding.

"Providing additional support by contact between mothers and workers at this point should enable more mothers to continue breastfeeding for longer.

"Our goal is to increase our continuation rates as well as grow our initiation rates."