Breastfeeding in the UK

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The picture of breastfeeding in the UK is a complex one.

More mothers are breastfeeding, but continuation rates in the UK remain among the lowest worldwide. A recent meta-analysis in Acta Paediatrica found that the Baby Friendly Initiative is the most effective programme for improving breastfeeding rates.

Infant feeding and very early child development are global and national priorities, and primary areas of focus for the NHS and local partners. Improving breastfeeding rates is a key national driver in child health and is highlighted in numerous government policy documents. In the period 2005-2010, all four UK national governments invested in promoting breastfeeding, financially and through national, regional and local policy. within this time breastfeeding initiation rates in England increased from 78 per cent to 83 per cent (McAndrew, 2012) along with a marked increase in engagement with the Baby Friendly Initiative – for more details, see the Baby Friendly Evidence document, p.20.

The Unicef UK Baby Friendly Initiative is recommended across all four UK nations as an evidence-based programme to support women to initiate and continue to breastfeed, and to promote practices that will maximise very early child development.

In line with policy recommendations, a large proportion of services are already working towards Baby Friendly in the UK. You can see how facilities in your area are progressing to full accreditation. Read Unicef UK’s and Public Health England’s joint guidance on commissioning breastfeeding services.

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