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Public Health England Breastfeeding Friend

England has among the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world. Public Health England was looking to find a solution that could deliver breastfeeding advice whenever mums needed it. We created the Breastfeeding Friend, the UK’s first bespoke breastfeeding voice assistant, which was so successful it is now the Amazon Echo’s default answer to any breastfeeding query.


England has among the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world. Only 44% of mums are still breastfeeding after 8 weeks and just 1% at six months. Increasing breastfeeding would have tangible societal benefits, reducing the load on the NHS from reductions in childhood infections and breast cancer. But when mums struggle to breastfeed, they can worry that baby isn’t getting enough milk, so switch to bottle. We worked with PHE to understand how ‘support in the moment’ presents an opportunity to stop breastfeeding. Analysis of search trends on breastfeeding advice showed a key peak in the small hours of the night. Qualitative research unpacked this further – helpline-like support services are not available then, neither do women feel that they can phone, friends, sisters or their own mums for advice at night. Not only are these times of high stress, they are physically also times where mums literally have both hands full – so even reaching to a mobile device to google for advice is problematic. So we needed a solution that could deliver breastfeeding advice whenever mums need it, whatever the hour, instantly, baby in arms, and hands-free.


We set about creating the ‘Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend’- the UK’s first bespoke breastfeeding voice assistant to run on connected home and mobile devices. Mum is stressed and Voice is new. So we wanted to be absolutely sure that what we were creating would work as a fully scalable solution. Insight fuelled the content: to ensure the Breastfeeding Friend could answer mothers’ most pressing questions, we analysed both search data and data from our own breastfeeding chatbot to identify and prioritise the most frequent queries. Insight fuelled the delivery: once the initial version was built we created a beta-testing partnership with the UK’s largest mum website – Mumsnet- to get instant feedback from new breastfeeding mums to allow us to evolve accordingly. The beta-test revealed that in the heat of the moment, new breastfeeding mums found Alexa’s robotic voice irritating, with a less-than reassuring tone. Again with support from Mumsnet to evaluate we ran extensive casting to find the perfect voice – suggesting a friendly, caring and reassuring midwife.


Breastfeeding Friend has become Amazon Echo’s default answer to any breastfeeding query, meaning that that any generic questions on breastfeeding will be answered by the voice assistant we have built.

Mums love it:

• BFF’s average rating is 5*

• ‘This is great! Made me feel more at ease, as a new mum it’s quite tricky to get it right... it’s amazing how useful technology can be.’;

• “I feel much more confident about breastfeeding - highly recommend for any new mums”

The media loved it:

• 136 pieces of coverage across TV, radio, print and online

• 33.2M opportunities to see


This work has a Media Week Award for Best Research Insight.
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