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Gateway POWs: breastfeeding figures are up again

14th June 2013

Our figures for last year show that women supported by a Pregnancy Outreach Worker are more likely to breastfeed than the regional and national averages. Have a look:

Average number of new mothers who initiated breastfeeding:

Gateway clients 79%
Within the wards we cover 65%
Birmingham 69%
West Midlands 78%
Nationally 81%


Of those who initiated, those who continued to breastfeed at a week after birth:

Gateway clients 89%
Nationally 69%


Of those who initiated, those who continued breastfeeding after 6-8 weeks:

Gateway clients 69%
Birmingham 44%
West Midlands 31% – 54%
Nationally 55%

– Out of the 578 women we were supporting last year 197 had given birth by the end of March.  This is the data set used.

– Ward figures are taken from the Birmingham Health Inequalities Action Plan 2012, Birmingham.

– “Birmingham” is an average of the rates achieved in Birmingham’s three former PCT areas.

West Midlands figures are taken from Initiation, Uptake and Sustainability of Breastfeeding,  West Midlands Public Health Legacy Series, 2012,  Dept of Health.

– National figures are taken from the Infant Feeding Survey, 2010.

Why does POW support make a difference?

We think there are a number of reasons that support from a Pregnancy Outreach Worker results in an increased likelihood of a woman breastfeeding.

  1. Practical advice and training before the birth

    Unlike other services, POWs support most of their clients for the best part of a year. It means that they have plenty of time pre-natally to talk about breastfeeding and, where necessary, persuade mum to give it a try.

    All our POWs are UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative trained, so they can put on impromptu one-to-one or group training as required.  As they build relationships with their clients, they try and make sure that everything’s in place for the mother to be comfortable with the practicalities of breastfeeding well before she gives birth.

  2. The POW can be there immediately after the birth, even in the hospital

    Pregnancy Outreach Worker Sylvia says, “if they don’t try and breastfeed in the hospital, straight away, it’s much more difficult to start”. Caroline, who works with teenage mums, agrees: “We try and do as much preparatory stuff as we can before the birth – because it all gets so much harder afterwards.”

    The POWs know when their clients’ babies are due, so they check in regularly with them around the time. They aim to speak to them as soon as possible after the baby arrives, so they are there to answer questions. Many go to visit while mum is still in hospital and frequently, whilst there, they will give practical breastfeeding support.

    Once mum and baby are home, POWs can continue to give practical, hands on advice. They’ve already built up a relationship with the mother, which makes it much easier to offer this kind of help. They can also also provide lots of advice over the phone and often do this out of hours.

  3. Introducing clients to more support networks

    The ideal circumstances for a mother to breastfeed include the feeling that she has plenty of support from likeminded people. So POWs always  try and introduce their clients to the various networks and groups that are available to new parents – often taking them along to clinics themselves.

    Sharon, a POW, recently took a client to the Women’s Hospital breastfeeding workshop. Sharon says “It’s a good network to be part of – very informative and very pro-breastfeeding. At the drop-in clinic they can meet the breastfeeding co-ordinators and other mums for practical advice, and talk about their fears as well as the pros and cons of breastfeeding. They get the contact numbers of counsellors to phone for support. It gives them some structure as well as social support.”


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  1. Anne Cummins

    Great results! We know that breastfeeding makes such a difference to babies and their mums, so well done to all.

  2. Eleanor McGee

    Well done. This level of support is so rarely available and is so much more imporntant in this vulnerable group. You really are reducing health inequalities.