Start4Life launches new Breastfeeding Friend tool on Google Assistant during World Breastfeeding Week

As World Breastfeeding Week launches (1 August), the 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend from Public Health England’s programme Start4Life has been made available on Google Home and the Google Assistant app for mobile to provide even more parents with advice and support during the first few weeks of breastfeeding.

Start4 Life Google Assistant

Start4Life Google Assistant

The 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend has been developed to provide friendly advice to mums who have questions and need support with breastfeeding at any point day or night. The tool is voice activated on the Google Assistant app and Google Home, meaning mums can get NHS-approved advice and daily breastfeeding tips in the moment and when they may have their hands full. Anyone with a smartphone can download the Google Assistant app for free and say “Hey Google, talk to Breastfeeding Friend” to access the service. Those with a Google Home device set up can access the service with the same phrase.

Start4Life Google Assistant

The 24/7 Breastfeeding Friend is also available on Amazon Alexa and Facebook Messenger and joins a suite of breastfeeding tools from Start4Life, including the relaunched Start4Life website, the ‘Off to the Best Start’ breastfeeding leaflet and the Start4Life Information Service for Parents, all of which provide 24/7 access to expert NHS advice and useful information, in a friendly and accessible way.

Whilst three-quarters of women start breastfeeding when their child is born, by 6-8 weeks this drops to just 44%[1] , making breastfeeding rates in England amongst the lowest in the world.

However, new research[2] among 1,000 mothers commissioned by Public Health England shows that 42% of breastfeeding mums wish they had known that breastfeeding may not come easy at first but getting support and advice can really help. When mothers reflected on breastfeeding, the poll also illustrated that 26% wished they had known that asking for help breastfeeding can make a real difference. Almost one in four (24%) wish they had known that there is lots of help and support from breastfeeding groups, other parents and online.

Public Health England recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around the first six months. Breastfeeding boosts a baby’s ability to fight illness and infection, and babies who are not breastfed are more likely to get diarrhoea and chest infections. Breastfeeding also lowers a mother’s risk of breast cancer and may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.

[1] Public Health England annual data on breastfeeding at 6-8 weeks

[2] Kantar data collected from 1,005 mothers of children under the age of 4 on behalf of PHE, 26th January to 7th February 2018


At the start of UK Maternal Mental Health (MMH) week (1-7 May), the iHV is delighted to announce that we are working with Action on Postpartum Psychosis (APP), a national charity supporting women and families affected by Postpartum Psychosis (PP).

In order to ensure that future mental health care of women is what women want/need, we ensure that the APP voice is central to our training. Women, who are experts by experience from APP, deliver on the iHV Perinatal Mental Health (PMH) programmes so all the health and social care professionals we train understand what they need to do to best support women and their families.

The death of Alice Gibson-Watt has lessons for us all and, as part of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, both the iHV and APP are committed to improving outcomes for women and their families. Key to this is learning from experts by experience and their families. The iHV was delighted to hear Hannah Bisset (APP Northern Regional Representative) raising parity of esteem for mental health through sharing her story on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday. Listen to her from minute 32.45 here.

For Salt Awareness Week 2017 (Monday 20 March – Sunday 26 March 2017), the Consensus Action on Salt & Health (CASH) has issued a press release and survey, which used their smartphone app ‘Foodswitch’ to look at the salt levels in shopping baskets of everyday items sold in UK supermarkets.

Looking at 28 food items, each representing a different category within the 2017 salt reduction targets, CASH found a huge variation in salt levels, with most categories still not meeting the targets, and are calling for more action from manufacturers and Public Health England if we are to reduce our salt intakes to below 6g a day.

The newly updated FoodSwitch app is now available to download – from either iTunes or Google Play – see links below.  Using this app, you can scan in the barcode of your food and drink, see the colour coded label for that item, and see healthier choices.  Shoppers are encouraged to do give it a go and give CASH your feedback, if you can.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director iHV, said:

“HVs are well-placed to start to educate parents on the dangers of salt and the amount found in foodstuffs, but are often stretched by time constraints as they have so many important public health messages to share.  Being able to point parents to an app will be very helpful.”

Please find enclosed some information about the Be Food Smart App developed by the PHE marketing team – It follows on from the Sugar Smart App that was well received.  This was sent out to dentists to encourage their involvement.

Watch PHE’s film about the Be Food Smart app and see how much sugar, sat fat and salt is really inside your family’s food and drink.

Today, 14 February, sees the official launch of the new Web App New2UKHealth.

New2UKhealth is a web app helping migrants, refugees and visitors get information about health care services in the United Kingdom. This online platform enables migrants and local voices to connect and communicate, enabling faster integration and reduced strain on services.

New2UKHealth is the first ever online community to help people who are new to the UK to find out how to access healthcare, and help each other learn about healthcare works.

This web app hopes to help many many lives – but it can’t reach these people without your help!!

What can you do?

  • Complete a survey
  • Become a volunteer