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 3: the importance of implementing evidence-based initiatives that support breastfeeding, both in healthcare settings and in the wider community.
Breastfeeding practices are highly responsive to interventions delivered in health systems, communities, and homes. The largest effects are achieved when interventions are delivered in combination.
We know from the extensive evidence base that women need face-to-face, predictable, ongoing support to continue to be successful at breastfeeding, but this strain on resources means that the quantity and quality of care has been compromised. In addition, enabling longer term breastfeeding requires support at a political level in conjunction with community-based interventions such as mother support groups.
The Baby Friendly standards have helped to improve breastfeeding initiation rates and provided a strong foundation on which further initiatives can be developed. In order that we do not lose all the progress that has been made, and to ensure that we continue to improve breastfeeding rates, UNICEF UK is calling on the UK governments to maintain and improve support for health services to continue to implement the Baby Friendly standards and to make them sustainable over time.
In addition, we are calling on the UK governments to implement a collective suite of evidence-based initiatives within and beyond the healthcare context, to support the UK to regain its breastfeeding culture. Areas requiring urgent attention include social support for breastfeeding mothers, public health campaigns to raise awareness, employer schemes to support mothers returning to work and breastfeeding welcome schemes to enable mothers to feel confident to breastfeed when not at home. Only when a holistic approach is taken, with community interventions complementing healthcare initiatives, will breastfeeding rates see consistent and sustainable improvement.