Reproductive health charity bpas says what matters most is that women’s feeding choices are respected
More new mothers are attempting breastfeeding than ever before, new figures from the NHS Information Centre show, with the initial breastfeeding rate in the UK rising from 76% in 2005 to 81% in 2010. The Infant Feeding Survey 2010 shows that over four fifths of mothers are aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding and that the vast majority intended to breastfeed their baby.
However, the number of mothers following government guidelines on exclusive breastfeeding remained unchanged between 2005 and 2010 – with only one in every hundred breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of their baby's life. By six weeks, fewer than a quarter of women are exclusively breastfeeding in the UK. The most common reasons for stopping breastfeeding in the first week were problems with the baby rejecting the breast or not latching on properly (27%), having painful breasts or nipples (22%) and feeling that they had ‘insufficient milk’(22%).
By the time their baby was six weeks, nearly three quarters of women had given their baby milk other than breastmilk.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service believes the results of the survey show that public policy on infant feeding needs to recognise the reality of women’s lives and choices.
Ann Furedi, bpas chief executive, said: “It is very important that women who want to breastfeed are given the support and advice they need to do so as long as they wish. However the fact that only one mother in 100 is still exclusively breastfeeding at six months as government guidelines recommend suggests policy is out of step with the practicalities of feeding for the overwhelming majority of new mothers.
“Many women will choose to use formula in place of or to supplement breastfeeding and it is vital that their choices are respected and supported too. The person best placed to make the decision about what is right and works best for her and her baby is the mother herself.”