Best Start

Abstract

The World Health Organization advises exclusively breastfeeding babies to six months of age. However, only 1% of babies in the UK are fed this way.

Best start is a new service that addresses the issues that mothers face throughout breastfeeding. The service helps to prepare and educate mothers during pregnancy, assists them through the crucial first six weeks of breastfeeding, and supports them to the six month milestone and beyond. The best start kit gives every mother the essentials to get started, and provides tangible tools to explain the key educational concepts to boost her knowledge to continue breastfeeding confidently.

Inspiration and Method

Midwives, Health Visitors, Lactation Consultants, and Breastfeeding Peer Counsellors from both the UK and Sweden were interviewed throughout the course of this project, as well as mothers and fathers with different experiences of breastfeeding. A common issue came up again and again: the biggest reason for mothers stopping breastfeeding in the UK is their anxiety that they are not making enough milk for their baby. One midwife explained: "The biggest problem with breastfeeding is Mum thinking she doesn’t have enough milk, especially at the beginning with milk coming in a few days later. With the bottle people can see there is 60mls... then its gone. With the breast, they have no idea."

I was intrigued at how bottle feeding had contributed to this anxiety, and what the common pitfalls were in breastfeeding. My research revealed that too many mothers started breastfeeding without knowing basic knowledge to help them successfully breastfeed (and maximise their milk supply), such as how often to feed their baby, how to know when the baby is hungry, and how to tell if the baby is attached properly at the breast. Existing education classes for breastfeeding are not only under attended, but also timed too late in pregnancy, during the last weeks, when parents are often so focused on the imminent labour that they don't retain information about breastfeeding.

It was clear that the problems were spread over many points in time: from pregnancy; birth and the hospital environment; the first few weeks at home; and then later in breastfeeding, around the three month mark. The types of problems were also spread, from educational issues, the physical and mental experience of breastfeeding, and how other people can really support, or inadvertently undermine breastfeeding.

Result

Best start is a service that addresses the educational, experiential and support issues mothers face in breastfeeding over time. During pregnancy, the service focuses on educating the mother and her family. Her support network of other mums is grown by attending a three week face to face breastfeeding course during the sixth month of pregnancy. Mothers are taught alongside a physical kit they can take home, which includes tangible tools and essential items to help them through the first weeks after birth: giving every mother the best start in breastfeeding.

The best start app enhances education by providing multimedia videos, pushing time contextual information, and building the mother's local support network.

The three month kit tangibly demonstrates the health benefits breastfeeding brings for babies over time, encouraging mothers to reach the six month milestone.