WOMEN have been encouraged to breastfeed by health chiefs.

The calls come after figures show only around 70 per cent of babies in Lancashire have their first feed of breast milk.

That is below the UK average of more than 73 per cent of mothers who start breastfeeding.

And by six weeks, the figure drops to as low as 40 per cent.

Reasons given for the low uptake include ‘misconceptions’ about breastfeeding being painful or uncomfortable.

Calls from Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) bosses have been made in a bid to improve the health of babies in the area.

Kirsty Hamer, commissioning lead for children, family and maternity services at the CCGs, said: “There are a few misconceptions when it comes to breastfeeding.

“It should not be painful or uncomfortable, and it is impossible to overfeed a breastfed baby.

“You’ll be visited frequently by your midwife and health visitor in the early weeks to make sure your baby is growing well, and they can give advice on your feeding technique and help support you and your baby through your breastfeeding journey.”

The World Health Organisation recommends that where possible, children should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health.

After this, mums should give them baby food alongside breast milk which will help them to grow, while breast milk is proven to be beneficial up to the age of two and beyond.

Health bosses said that it was essential that mothers got the right support at the right time from professionals and the community around them.

They said that breast milk was perfectly designed for babies, protecting them from infections, and also lowering the mother’s risk of ovarian cancer.

Mums can also take a look at the county’s mission statement ‘feeding future generations’ to understand more around how themselves, their babies and their whole community can benefit from breastfeeding.

Ms Hamer added: “However you choose to feed your baby, new parents often have lots of questions.

“It’s quite common to feel overwhelmed but if you think you might be depressed it’s really important to talk to anyone – your partner, friends, health visitor or GP.”

Breastfeeding calls were made during World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to August 7) aimed at encouraging breastfeeding and improving the health of babies .

For support and information, mothers can visit https://www.lancashirecare.nhs.uk/feeding-your-baby and contact FAB breastfeeding support on 01254772929.

The National Breastfeeding Helpline (0300 100 0212) is available all year round from 9.30am to 9.30pm.

Alternatively, people can sign into Facebook and message the Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend ‘chatbot’ for NHS advice in the day and night.

To find out more about the health benefits of breastfeeding, people can also visit the NHS Choices website and Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire CCG’s Facebook pages.