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Liberal Democrats on Kent County Council

No guarantee Kent mums will get the breastfeeding support they need

May 3, 2018 10:26 PM

Kent mums with difficulty breastfeeding may not be able to access specialist care when they need it under Conservative plans to redesign the county's breastfeeding support services.

Rob at CHAt Tuesday's meeting of the Health Reform and Public Health Cabinet Committee, Conservatives refused to give an assurance that new mothers with breastfeeding problems would be able to see a specialist Lactation Consultant within two days, under the new Infant Feeding Scheme.

Access to Lactation Consultants, who are able to help with more complex infant feeding problems, is key for both mums and babies, and was one of the main concerns of mothers who campaigned against the Conservative's infant feeding service proposals.

Up to one in ten babies is born with tongue-tie. This may require a small specialist procedure and/or more specialist breastfeeding advice for the mother. Crucially, unless this issue is dealt with quickly, the child will struggle to put on weight, which is vital in early days, and the mother will be suffer from increased stress and anxiety.

KCC proposes just one Lactation Consultant clinic per week in eleven of Kent's twelve districts (with Dartford and Gravesham sharing a clinic) together with home visits and telephone advice.

Additional Lactation Consultant support will be 'spot purchased'. However, no-one can guarantee that Kent's mums will be able to see Lactation Consultants when they need to.

In recent years fewer than one in five mums has been provided with infant feeding support in Kent. UK rates of breastfeeding are amongst the lowest in the world, and at 71 per cent Kent's rate is below the national average of 73.8 per cent.

Two boroughs, Swale and Gravesham, have breastfeeding rates well the national average at 64 per cent and 63 per cent respectively.

There are significant and well known health benefits breastfeeding brings to both baby and mother.

For the baby, breastfeeding brings early resistance to infection, fewer cases of Infant Sudden Death, childhood leukaemia, obesity, and cardio vascular problems, and possibly better speed of learning.

For mums the immediate benefit is a faster return to pre-pregnancy weight, and internal organs shrinking to normal size together with reduced long term incidence of breast and ovarian cancer.

Leader of the Opposition at County Hall, Rob Bird said: "The Liberal Democrats strongly support the provision of a universal service across Kent, but we remain concerned about fast access to Lactation Consultants when new mothers need it most.

"We would also like to see more resources targeted at areas where breastfeeding rates are significantly below the national average, and a robust way of measuring how effective this new scheme is."