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ROLE MODEL

'Breastfeeding is something women need easy access to information about'

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Clare Whitehead and a small team at the Wirral Community Trust recently released a breastfeeding app for young mothers.

As Clare Whitehead and a friend discussed the usefulness of a budgeting app, she joked that no woman would own up to what she spent. But a seed was planted – what app would women find useful?

The idea started to bud as Ms Whitehead considered her 15 years as a health visitor, which had taught her that many women struggle to find easily accessible information about breastfeeding.

Finally, the Breast Start app bloomed when Ms Whitehead became infant feeding coordinator for the Wirral Community Trust and had backing to develop her idea.

“I knew from experience breastfeeding was something women need information about but we haven’t got the time to be fiddling with buttons and games, especially with young babies,” she says.

The app was released for Apple on 21 May and for Android on 28 May. Ms Whitehead created the concept and content with the help of a four-person IT logistics team.

The app’s debut was at a launch celebrating achievements for the four-year Health Visiting Implementation Plan, which aims to expand and refocus training, recruitment and retention in health visiting to improve public health. The secretary of state for health liked the app and even mentioned it in his speech at the event.

Breast Start is a breastfeeding “two-click solution” for mothers to get direct and succinct advice on positioning, expressing, attaching, advantages and local support on their smartphone. Designed by Ms Whitehead, who is a mother of two herself, the home page has round buttons, which can be easily tapped by a busy mother.

“The app is short and sharp,” explains Whitehead, who says it’s a more accessible form of information than websites. “When a mum is tired, she doesn’t want to be wading through pages of nice fonts and fluffy pictures. She wants ‘how do I fix this?’ and ‘where do I go to get help?’ The problem with the internet is that anyone can write anything.”

Pauline Ellis, who’s been in nursing for 22 years, is one of the team that helped develop the app, and also agrees its benefit lies in its quick accessibility for pop-up problems. “During the day it’s fine to ring any health professional, but who are you going to ring at two in the morning?” she says.

Since its launch, feedback has been positive. Women seem to enjoy the “eateries” page, which gives them the inside scoop on breastfeeding-friendly restaurants and cafes in town.

Ms Whitehead has plans to go national and is reaching out to trusts near the Wirral, proposing collaboration. The Breast Start team would receive and upload information from other trusts, then maintain it for a cost. The team is slowly gaining financial backing to add more pages and data so it can provide mothers with more information.

“Eventually I’d like to go worldwide because the information is translatable and useable,” says Ms Whitehead. “Help for breastfeeding mothers is a universal need.”

However, her attempts to launch the app in the US through Apple have been subject to stringent criteria that rated the app suitable for ages 17 and up only, which she sees at odds with the brand.

“It connotes breastfeeding is a sexual thing,” says Whitehead. “It’s not; it is natural, nutritious and keeps a child alive.”

It hasn’t been easy, but she’s delighted with the product – and she isn’t the only one.

“I’m proud this idea we had came to fruition and that it’s so well accepted by both the minster for health and nurses,” says Ms Ellis. “We had a goal, and we achieved it, and that’s very rewarding.”

“The app turned out exactly how I pictured it in my head,” says Whitehead. “I wanted this to be something people loved in a very emotional way.”

Whitehead openly admits her emotional connection to the app, saying: “I call it my third child, my brainchild.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Well done Clare, anything that gives women information,encouragement and practical support re positioning, tips etc in an easily accessible way is great.
    We want to make breastfeeding the norm. I breastfed my 3 children and found it a real struggle at times, especially since no other women in the family had breastfeeding experience.

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