New mums across Cumbria are being encouraged to give breastfeeding a try, and make use of the support that is out there.

Midwives across the county are using National Breastfeeding Week to raise the profile of the benefits for mum and baby.

The county's specialist NHS infant feeding coordinators are leading these efforts, backed by members of local support groups.

Fiona Sim and Diane Clark, who work for the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, will be going along to a number of events to raise awareness of breastfeeding and advice.

The pair, who work as infant feeding coordinators and lactation consultants, are among those working to improve breastfeeding rates, which are traditionally quite low across Cumbria.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) recently updated its advice to ensure mothers who choose to bottle feed still receive proper support, accepting that many women struggle to breastfeed.

However, wherever possible, mums are still encouraged to give breastfeeding a try - with evidence showing that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months brings strong benefits.

In order to empower women to consider breastfeeding their babies, the two infant feeding coordinators want to ensure they have as much information and support as possible.

They are working in partnership with local children’s centres and voluntary peer support groups this week.

Fiona said: “National Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity to raise the awareness of breastfeeding.

"It is an opportunity for parents, breastfeeding supporters and health professionals to come together to share what works well to support breastfeeding in our local communities."

She added: “We are working really hard to increase the breastfeeding rates in Cumbria, particularly as the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

"Breastfeeding has a wealth of benefits for both the mother and her baby, such as reducing the risk of serious illnesses including, chest infections, gastroenteritis, allergies, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood cancers as well as reducing the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures in mothers.

“Breastfeeding is not only the responsibility of the mother, but also her partner, family and the community, as well as those who support her, such as ourselves. Whatever feeding choice a mother makes we are on hand to offer any support needed and welcome anyone to come along to one of the events to have a chat with us.”

Events to date include a Big Latch On at the Lanes Shopping Centre in Carlisle, an awareness event at Penrith library and a breastfeeding picnic at Castle park in Whitehaven. Breastfeeding groups in south Cumbria have also been hosting their own events.

To coincide with the 70th anniversary of the NHS, midwifery staff in the north of the county are joining a major celebration event in Carlisle city centre on Saturday, July 7.

Their “feeding time” stall with focus on infant feeding practices in 1948, when the first baby was born in the NHS, compared with babies that are born now, looking at how feeding practices and baby care have changed over the past seven decades.

Helen Ferris, an infant Feeding Coordinator at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust added:

“Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life, but it can be difficult without proper support. Our midwives are there to help and support new mothers with breastfeeding and ensure mother and baby are happy and healthy.

“I look forward to the week’s celebrations; it’s an opportunity to highlight not only the great support available, but the benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and baby.”