PHE launches Alexa skill and Messenger chatbot to help new mums breastfeed

Public Health England has turned to the latest technology to create the "24/7 Breastfeeding Friend" under its Start4Life programme.

The advice service is available for free as a chatbot on Facebook Messenger and also via Amazon's Alexa voice service.

Mothers can ask Alexa a variety of questions about breastfeeding and the answers will be provided tailored to the age of the baby. 

To access the skill, users need to enable the Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life in the Alexa app. Or, they can ask Alexa to enable "Breastfeeding Friend". 

"We see from conversations on Mumsnet that mothers are looking for breastfeeding support 24/7, and in fact middle-of-the-night crises when face-to-face help isn't available can be the most profoundly lonely and difficult. These new round-the-clock digital services could provide help when mothers need it most," Justine Roberts, chief executive and Founder of Mumsnet, commented.

Wavemaker worked with PHE in the development of the Alexa Skill with Amazon,while freuds is providing communication work for the campaign. 

This service was launched after a survey of 1,000 mothers conducted by Kantar Public for PHE learnt that, in hindsight, mothers wished they had been better prepared for breastfeeding.

Before the birth of their first child, mums’ biggest priorities were buying baby equipment (66%), preparing for labour (49%) and buying baby clothes (40%).

However, post birth, nearly a quarter (24%) wished they had read about and were more prepared for breastfeeding and one in four (26%) of those who had given breastmilk to their first child wished they had known that asking for help can make a real difference.

Evidence has shown that the right support helps mothers to breastfeed for longer.

"Health professionals do an excellent job of caring for new mothers, but they cannot be available 24/7, which is where our Breastfeeding Friend from Start4Life is designed to help. This tool, together with the range of support materials from Start4Life, can provide breastfeeding advice at any time of night or day and support mothers and their partners and families through challenges they may face," Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England said.

The Start4Life breastfeeding campaign will use a mixture of PR activity, social media, digital advertising and a partnership with Mumsnet to support the launch of the new 24/7 ‘Breastfeeding Friend’ from Start4Life, available via Amazon Alexa’s voice search service.

The campaign will also illustrate the suite of other support services available from Start4Life and from healthcare professionals.

A series of short ‘top tip’ videos from mothers across England has also been developed to provide new mothers with peer-to-peer advice on breastfeeding.

Meanwhile, consumer parenting site, Mumsnet, will be conducting a range of activities to promote the breastfeeding support services available from Start4Life.

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