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Cuts to services detrimental to mothers who want to breastfeed, warn experts

World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK report exposes gaps in public health support services for breastfeeding mothers.
Cuts to services detrimental to mothers who want to breastfeed

Public health service cuts including health visiting mean that mothers who want to breastfeed their babies are not getting adequate support, a report has shown.

The latest World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK report states that support services have declined in recent years and many more are under threat.

The report reiterates previous studies which show that Britain has one of the lowest levels of breastfeeding in the world. It adds that around 80% of mothers in the UK begin to breastfeed, but in weeks breastfeeding rates drop.

Earlier this year, figures published in The Lancet medical journal revealed that only one in every 200 British children 0.5% is breastfed until the age of 12 months.

The government must stop cuts to public health services or the UK will

Public health service cuts including health visiting mean that mothers who want to breastfeed their babies are not getting adequate support, a report has shown.

The latest World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative UK report states that support services have declined in recent years and many more are under threat.

 PA Wire
Cuts to services detrimental to mothers who want to breastfeed.
Picture: PA Wire

The report reiterates previous studies which show that Britain has one of the lowest levels of breastfeeding in the world. It adds that around 80% of mothers in the UK begin to breastfeed, but in weeks breastfeeding rates drop.

Earlier this year, figures published in The Lancet medical journal revealed that only one in every 200 British children – 0.5% – is breastfed until the age of 12 months.

The government must stop cuts to public health services or the UK will remain ‘bottom of the pack when it comes to breastfeeding’, according to Russell Viner, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

‘The truth is, women are not getting the support they need in order to sustain breastfeeding over several months and this has a knock-on effect on child health.

‘This lack of support is down to pressures on the workforce with healthcare professionals simply not having the time to spend with mothers following birth.

Failing responsibility

‘Putting it bluntly government isn't fulfilling its responsibility for baby feeding and unless it reverses cuts to public health budgets, specifically those impacting health visiting services, it is unlikely the UK will ever move from the bottom of the pack when it comes to breastfeeding and the nation's health will suffer as a result.’

But Viv Bennett, chief nurse at Public Health England, said that promoting breastfeeding was a key priority.

‘We are working with local services to create breastfeeding friendly communities, with midwives and health visitors to promote best practice, and through our Start4Life campaigns which provides parents with trusted NHS advice.’

Promoting breastfeeding

Sarah Fox, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘The UK as a whole is not doing as well as it can in promoting and supporting breastfeeding.

‘We would urge governments in the UK to take action to remove the barriers to breastfeeding and improve services and support.’

A Department of Health spokesperson said it was committed to supporting mothers to breastfeed and would be investing £16 billion in public health services over the next five years.

Recent RCN guidance on formula feeding stated that while nurses should continue to provide advice and to promote and support breastfeeding, they should also be able to advise parents and help with formula feeding.


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