Breastfeeding services in Stoke-on-Trent are set to be the latest victim to local health funding cuts.

The cuts, coming from the local councils public health budget, are set to take place from September 1st and include seeing the support staff being reduced to just two facilitators.

Funding has been threatened numerous times over the last few years and has already seen the merger of two local support teams.

The previously acclaimed 24/7 365 helpline has also been reduced to business hours but under the new plans this will be cut completely.

The Infant Feeding Team supports all new and breastfeeding mums across Stoke-on-Trent, including surrounding areas since other support services have been stopped.

The majority of cafes and walk-in clinics were closed at the beginning of the year, leading some mums to set up their own.

However, this still cannot provide the medically trained advice and services, such as tongue-tie revision, that is available currently.

This has left the mothers who use the services not only questioning where they will go for future support, but also what these cuts will mean for the future of the NHS.

Sarah Page, a sociology lecture and breastfeeding mum, is just one of the mothers concerned about the long term affect this will have on the NHS as breastfeeding numbers may drop.

“Reducing funding to breastfeeding services is likely to result in a reduction in mothers choosing to breastfeed.

“I think that the decision to cut the service is short sighted because in the long term the NHS will be paying out for treatment for various ailments and conditions that breastfeeding helps to prevent.”

Breastfeeding has been proven to reduce cases of short-term illnesses such as stomach bugs and ear infections.

There is also evidence that a breastfed child is less likely to become obese or develop type 2 diabetes in later life. Conditions such as this currently cost the NHS 8.9 billion pounds a year.

But the cost isn’t just one that could effect the NHS.

“Breastfeeding reduces the financial costs of family living, which helps to tackle poverty in the city,” says Sarah.

“The savings from not having to buy formula or bottles and sterilising equipment is really helpful for all families.”

If vital information is missed out on from the support services then mothers may feel they have no other choice but to make a switch to formula.

However, it is not only the financial outlay in other medical treatments that may cause more of a problem for the NHS.

Nicola Keeling, a former chair for the North Staffordshire National Childbirth Trust, said:

“I understand that many health professionals signposted to the Infant Feeding Team so they may find that they are more stretched and haven’t got the expertise to draw on.

“Unless more health visitors and midwives are being brought in to help, I don’t see how mums will get the support needed.”

Mothers such as Nicola Ryan, and her 13-month-old daughter Olivia-Mai.

“The service also helped me emotionally.

“I really hope the commissioners see the impact the team has on people like me and in terms of cost, in my case, it would have cost the NHS a lot more if I hadn’t had their support.”

The mothers of Stoke-on-Trent aren’t going to back down and plan to fight the cuts until the end, with a meeting being held at City Waterside Community Centre in Hanley this morning (24th August).

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Gemma is a 24 year old mum to her very mischievous and energetic son Jay, whom she delivered herself by dropping him in the toilet. She has always wanted to write so joining Visit from the Stork as a writer and being able to write about motherhood is pretty much the perfect combination for her. She says: "Maybe one day we'll win an OBE for services to pregnant ladies!" Since joining VFTS as a volunteer writer, Gemma has gone on to start the journalism course at Staffordshire University and now also edits other contributors work, and runs the new FAB (Features and blogs) team. As well as writing, Gemma also loves photography and provides the pictures for the front cover of the magazine, and some of the real-life features too.

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