As our Call to Action campaign highlights, we need to recognise that the UK’s low breastfeeding rates are a public health issue, not the responsibility of individual mothers to tackle. We need to “mother our mothers,” and take action to enable them to breastfeed for as long as they wish.
What support does a mother need to breastfeed?
We need to be there for mothers’ whole journey from pregnancy to new parenthood. Sensitive conversations during pregnancy, skilled help after birth, ongoing guidance and social support are all needed to enable mothers to feel confident and breastfeed successfully. We also need to create a welcoming public environment, so that women feel comfortable breastfeeding in public and in the workplace.
Support needs to be:
Whilst The Baby Friendly Initiative is improving breastfeeding support in healthcare settings, recent staff shortages in maternity services and cuts to health visiting services undermine this success. As NCT’s recent Support Overdue report shows, two thirds of mothers had infant feeding concerns that they were unable to raise because of midwife shortages: “[The midwives] were working so hard, there just weren’t enough of them to go round.”
With existing services under threat, breastfeeding rates are likely to fall further. This is really worrying for the health of our children, given the overwhelming evidence that breastfeeding protects them from a whole host of illnesses well into adulthood. The UK ranks 15 out of 19 Western European countries on infant mortality, with huge health inequalities between rich and poor communities. Increasing the number of babies who are breastfed could tackle these issues and cut the incidence of common childhood illnesses, saving the NHS at least £50 million each year. That’s money that could be used to invest in breastfeeding support and protect both child and maternal wellbeing.
It’s crucial that breastfeeding support is protected, to make sure our children have the best possible chance to thrive.
What can I do to support breastfeeding?
There are many organisations speaking up about the need to protect breastfeeding support:
- Join our Call to Action campaign, urging UK governments to take four key steps to improve breastfeeding rates
- Report local threats to maternity services to the Royal College of Midwives
- Call on government to protect funding for Health Visiting services
- Write to your MP to highlight the importance of supporting mothers to breastfeed
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.