Support for breastfeeding families to be cut across Suffolk from April

East Coast Community Healthcare held an event in honour of the breastfeeding support team on Mother'

East Coast Community Healthcare held an event in honour of the breastfeeding support team on Mother's Day last year. Sally Greenhill and Michele Price - Credit: Archant

A service that has helped Suffolk mums and their babies to successfully breastfeed is to be cut.

Suffolk County Council is ending the current county-wide contract with East Coast Community Healthcare (ECCH) from March 31 - a year earlier than planned.

The changes means ECCH's specialists will no longer recruit, train and organise volunteer peer supporters to help new parents at venues across Suffolk, including children's centres and maternity units.

All of the volunteers will be offered the opportunity to continue their roles under the management of the NHS or Suffolk County Council.

Julia Whiting, ECCH director of health improvement and children's services, said: 'During the time ECCH has provided breastfeeding services we were awarded UNICEF Baby Friendly Accreditation which is evidence of the world class service we provide.

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'So I want to thank our team – both staff and volunteer peer supporters - for their hard work and dedication to supporting mums to breastfeed their babies.

'We will continue to work within our health visiting teams to encourage mums to breastfeed and to help them do so.'

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The ECCH breastfeeding team was launched in Great Yarmouth and Waveney almost six years ago and was expanded to cover the rest of Suffolk last June.

The axed county-wide service currently offers seven day and out of hours' advice and support for breastfeeding families. Under the service, ECCH's specialist professionals are assisted by peer supporters at a network of breastfeeding support groups. The team also carry out home visits, work in the maternity units at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals and work closely with teams providing support to teenage mums.

A spokesman for Public Health Suffolk said the decision to end the service was taken following a carefully considered review into the merits of continuing the contract.

She added: 'The evidence from national and local sources over the past few years points to limited effectiveness by peer support models in increasing the proportion of women who breastfeed their babies. In this time of decreasing finances, we are having to make some difficult choices and need to ensure our limited resources are used effectively.'

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