Our Call to Action campaign urges UK governments to take four key steps to enable mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish and to protect all babies from commercial interests. The following outlines Step 2: the importance of protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding in all relevant policy areas. Add your voice to the campaign.
|Chest infections||Tooth decay|
|Gastroenteritis||Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC)|
|Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)||Diabetes|
|School readiness||Mental health|
|Health and social inequality||Wellbeing in the workplace|
|NHS resources||Environmental sustainability|
Infant feeding has a profound impact on physical and emotional health and wellbeing, lasting into adulthood. It should be recognised in a diverse range of policy areas.Add your voice
For breastfeeding to again become the normal way to feed a baby in the UK, a truly coordinated approach across all services and systems is required. This must not only continue to address the need for sustained improvement in health services, but also consider the education of children in schools and adults in their workplaces and communities.
Policy also needs to reflect the need for better social support so that mothers are again surrounded by people who believe that they can breastfeed and believe that breastfeeding is important. Such policy needs to include national public health campaigns, policies for mothers returning to work and legislation to protect the public from aggressive commercial interests. Local policy should address families’ need for one-to-one, face-to-face, predictable and ongoing support from people they trust. In addition, mothers need to be protected, welcomed and supported to breastfeed in public places.
Special attention is needed in policies designed to protect and support the most vulnerable, such as babies born preterm or sick, into the most disadvantaged families, or to mothers suffering with poor mental health, as these are the babies who are least likely to be breastfed, while needing it the most.
Scientific evidence suggests that infant feeding affects many important policy areas, for example obesity, perinatal mental health, cancer prevention, early years development and NHS resourcing (e.g. GP visits and admissions to hospital) and yet this is rarely acknowledged, let alone included in the national policy and guidance addressing these issues.
Unicef UK is therefore calling on all UK governments to take concerted action to promote, protect and support breastfeeding in all policy areas where breastfeeding has an impact.
Breastfeeding needs supportive measures at many levels, including legal and policy directives, social attitudes and values, women’s work and employment conditions, and healthcare services. Together these will enable women to breastfeed successfully.