A breastfeeding helpline to support new mothers has been officially launched by the Government. Public health minister Dawn Primarolo announced a £150,000 year package for the advice line to give women practical support and information. Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed are less likely to be obese in later life and gain protection against conditions like asthma, eczema and chest infections. Mothers benefit too, with studies showing a protective effect against ovarian and breast cancer. The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months, with continued breastfeeding alongside solid foods afterwards. A new report published by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests a need for more support for new mothers. It looks at the Infant Feeding Survey of 2005, which showed breast feeding rates went up from 69% in 2000 to 76% in 2005 across the UK. However, only half of women in England were still breastfeeding after six weeks. The Government cash will help support the new helpline, which will be run by two existing networks. The Breastfeeding Network and the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, which receive around 28,000 combined calls each year on breastfeeding, will merge and run the advice line. The Government hopes the newly-created National Breastfeeding Helpline will be able to handle a far higher number of calls than either organisation on their won. The new helpline number is 0844 20 909 20. Copyright © 2008 The Press Association.