THE percentage of new mums breast-feeding their babies in the borough is much lower than the national average.
Ellesmere Port & Neston Primary Care Trust's (PCT) annual public report reveals only 53% of mothers use the natural feeding method compared to 69% in the UK as a whole.
That's why the PCT is keen to promote the advantages of breast-feeding, particularly targeting mothers in the more deprived wards.
Health visitors from the PCT collected information on the proportion of women who breast-fed and how this changed over time from birth. There was a marked difference in the social background of mothers who breast-fed.
70% of those from the more affluent wards breast-fed initially, compared to 48% of mothers from the more deprived wards.
Breast-feeding rates fell in mothers from all backgrounds during the months following the birth of a baby.
At two weeks the proportion of mothers breast-feeding was 41%, while at six weeks only 30% of mothers were breast-feeding at least partially.
The PCT report stresses human breast milk provides complete nutrition for the newborn infant in the first months of life, maximising the baby's healthy growth and brain development.
Breast milk also protects the infant against many childhood illnesses. These include chest and ear infections, gastroenteritis and urinary tract infections.
The benefits of breast-feeding extend into childhood and even adult life.
Julie Webster, the PCT's director of public health, said: 'Not every women can breast-feed but, where possible, it is important that we encourage mothers of newborn babies to do so.
'The World Health Organisation recommends that all infants should be exclusively breast-fed from birth to 4-6 months of age.'
However, Ms Webster added: 'The number of women breast-feeding in the UK lags behind that of other European countries. In Norway, for example, 98% of mothers breast-feed.
'A key NHS target is to improve breast-feeding, particularly focusing on those least well off. The target is to deliver an increase of two percentage points per year in breast-feeding initiation rate, focusing especially on women from disadvantaged groups.'
There are examples of what is happening locally to improve breast-feeding:
The Countess of Chester Hospital has employed two midwives whose roles are specifically devoted to promoting breast-feeding.
All midwives, health visitors and other health care staff are trained to promote breast-feeding.
All women in the antenatal and postnatal periods are given the opportunity to discuss breast-feeding with a health care professional.
A quiet room has been created in the Countess of Chester Hospital to help new mothers to breast-feed.
There are successful breast-feeding support groups in the Ellesmere Port and Neston SureStart areas.
A 'milk bank' has been launched at the Countess of Hospital where mothers can donate unused milk enabling young babies in hospital who cannot get enough breast-milk to have the best start in life.
Ms Webster said: 'We need to continue to promote breast-feeding to wider groups of health professionals.
'We also need to work with our partners such as local authorities and businesses to raise awareness.'