TO mark World Breastfeeding Week, nurses and midwives at the Great Western Hospital are urging new mums to give their baby the best start in life and give breastfeeding a try.

The team, which was recently awarded a top accreditation from Unicef for its efforts to promote breastfeeding in Swindon, is determined to open mothers’ eyes to the advantages of natural feeding not only for their babies but themselves.

Research has shown that breastfeeding has enormous health benefits. It can help a baby’s digestion while also reducing the risk of diarrhoea and vomiting and obesity in later life.

It can also keep postnatal depression at bay, reduce the mother’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer and help her to lose weight.

Cathy Gale, infant feeding specialist midwife at GWH, said: “Breastfeeding is the healthiest and most natural way to feed a new born baby – it really is the best thing for them.

“We like to encourage all mums to breastfeed and our staff here are always on hand to support parents through every stage of the feeding process.”

The latest data shows that breastfeeding is a popular first choice at GWH, with 78.4 per cent of mothers choosing to breastfeed within one week of giving birth.

But staff are aware there is still some work to do to eliminate the social stigma often attached to breastfeeding in public.

“Mums should not feel scared or embarrassed to feed their baby in public,” she added.

“That’s why breastfeeding is welcome and encouraged in all the public areas at GWH and at all our community hospitals.”

Last month, Swindon’s maternity unit received the coveted Stage 3 accreditation from the global organisation’s Baby Friendly Initiative which recognises hospitals which promote the benefits of breastfeeding to expectant mums.

The trust provides a number of services to expectant mothers including antenatal breastfeeding classes, which are held across Swindon and in the community.

As well as supporting mothers, GWH signposts them to breastfeeding-friendly cafes and shops, via the breastfeeding welcome scheme website, to encourage them to continue for the first few months after birth.