UNICEF today welcomed the news that breastfeeding initiation rates have risen to 81 per cent across Britain as testament to all the hard work put in by the NHS to improve the care given to breastfeeding women.

The figures are from the 2010 Infant Feeding Survey, a national survey conducted every five years on behalf of the four UK Departments of Health to provide estimates of breastfeeding and other feeding practices adopted by mothers from the birth of their baby up to around 10 months. The figure of 81 per cent represents an increase of 5 per cent since the 2005 survey and 12 per cent since 2000.

Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of newborn babies initially breastfed rose from:

  • 78 per cent to 83 per cent in England
  • 67 per cent to 71 per cent in Wales
  • 70 per cent to 74 per cent in Scotland
  • 63 per cent to 64 per cent in Northern Ireland

"In recent years hospitals have put a great deal of effort into improving staff training and knowledge, and putting in place policies and practices proven to increase breastfeeding rates," said UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Director Sue Ashmore.

"Now we have the figures to show this nationwide effort has paid off."

Over the last decade the number of UK maternity hospitals gaining UNICEF Baby Friendly Accreditation - that is, having been successfully assessed by UNICEF as having recognised good practice in place for infant feeding - has almost tripled, from 22 units in 2001 to 63 now.

Most other hospitals are part-way through the process of becoming Baby Friendly, following official Department of Health advice that all units should implement the Baby Friendly standards.

These standards are based on the UNICEF/WHO recognised Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, and include ensuring all staff are trained in how to help a woman breastfeed, to give all women an hour of skin-to-skin contact, and to encourage demand feeding. If a woman chooses to bottlefeed, the Baby Friendly standards also require that she is shown how to make up feeds safely, as well as advice on feeding and nurturing in the early days.

Click here to find out more and download the report.


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