Alison Thewliss MP, Chair of the UK Parliament’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Infant Feeding and Inequalities, will be chairing a public meeting in Blackpool today to discuss drastic funding cuts to breastfeeding support services in the area.
Ms Thewliss will meet with residents and local campaigners to discuss the decision of Blackpool County Council to close down the Star Buddies peer support service in July 2017, after 10 years of providing one-to-one support to breastfeeding mums in Blackpool. Ms Thewliss will host a public meeting, where she will be joined by residents, local MPs and breastfeeding support groups.
The peer support service paired new mums with mums who had experience with breastfeeding their babies. The service covered the first few weeks and months of the baby’s life, with scheduled visits before, and up to 6 weeks after, the baby is born. As well as providing reliable and informative advice to new mums, regular visits to the new mums by peer support volunteers helped the new mums to monitor babies’ progress and identify any problems that may arise at an early stage.
The closure of the Star Buddies peer support service has been met with serious concern by campaigners and health professionals in the NHS. Figures released by Public Health England reveal that Blackpool has below average breastfeeding rates, with 61.6% of mothers initiating breastfeeding within 48 hours of their babies being born, compared with 74.3% for England as a whole.
Commenting prior to her visit, Alison Thewliss MP said:
“The closure of peer support services for breastfeeding in Blackpool has left many people understandably concerned about the quality and level of support available for new mums who are taking their first steps into parenthood.
“Mums need access to reliable sources of information in order to make the best decisions for feeding their babies and understanding what works for them for feeding their babies. Drawing on the knowledge of mums who have breastfed their babies within the first few weeks of a baby’s life provides valuable guidance and support at what can be a daunting and stressful period for new mums.
“The APPG has heard evidence of the positive impact that peer support services like Star Buddies can have on the lives of new mums. I am keen to recognise the efforts of those volunteers who have dedicated their time to run the service in Blackpool and challenge the decision of the Council to close an effective, integrated service which made an important contribution to improving breastfeeding rates.”