Could artificial intelligence assist mothers with breastfeeding?
Public Health England is using Amazon's Alexa to complement the work of professionals and provide support for breastfeeding mothers at all hours
As midwives, nurses and health visitors are well aware, there is a wealth of information and research about the importance of breastfeeding. Benefits to babies include reduced incidence of gastrointestinal and respiratory illness, and for mothers reduced risk of breast cancer (and possibly ovarian cancer, too). An increase in breastfeeding rates could therefore improve health outcomes and translate into cost savings across the NHS.
In the UK, breastfeeding rates are lower than most comparable countries—and much lower than in less affluent countries. Public Health England (PHE) (2017a) annual data show that, while almost three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, by 6-8 weeks, this figure drops to just 44%, and to less than 1% at 1 year.
Research (PHE and UNICEF, 2016) has identified a number of reasons why women are not starting or sustaining breastfeeding, including a belief that breastfeeding does not have significant benefits over formula, embarrassment, and stigma—for example being made to feel uncomfortable when feeding in public and in unwelcoming environments. According to PHE research (2017b), the key breastfeeding challenges and barriers experienced by women included: pain, bleeding, issues over feeding patterns, concerns about the amount of milk their baby was getting, lack of preparation before breastfeeding and uncertainty about how long to continue.
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