More mums are starting to breastfeed with breastfeeding rates at their highest level in England in decades, according to the latest statistics published at the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and the launch of a new TV ad campaign to encourage more women to breastfeed.
More than three quarters (78 per cent) of new mums in England start breastfeeding when their baby is born, according to the Infant Feeding Survey published by the Information Centre.
However, younger women and those in more disadvantaged communities are still less likely to breastfeed their babies. And the numbers of women breastfeeding also drops off despite the recommendation that babies are breastfed for their first six months.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Week, which runs until 19 May, is a government initiative which aims to support health professionals in promoting the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and their mums. And for the first time this will include TV ad campaign encouraging younger women to breastfeed their babies. The government will also publish a new joint NHS and UNICEF information leaflet for new mums giving them practical information and tips on how to breastfeed successfully.
Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said:
“All the evidence shows that ‘nothing is fitter than a breastfed nipper’. We’ve made good progress over the last 30 years encouraging more and more women to breastfeed. However, we cannot be complacent. There are communities where breastfeeding rates remain low adding to the health inequalities gap. We need to do more to close this and to ensure that babies receive the best form of nutrition and to give them the best start in life. We have set a target to increase breastfeeding initiation rates by two per cent year on year, in particular targeting women in these disadvantaged groups. Our new ad campaign targets younger women especially, telling them that breastfeeding is the norm, it’s natural and provides all the nutrition that babies need in their first six months.
“Our annual National Breastfeeding Awareness Week is a great focus for these efforts and we hope it helps even more women to think about breastfeeding this year.
“In the longer term we are also planning to work more closely with retailers and other organisations to encourage breastfeeding in their establishments making them ‘breastfeeding friendly’. ”
Breastfeeding is becoming the norm and those who don’t think that breastfeeding is acceptable in public are now the minority – only 23 per cent say that they don’t agree with it. Meanwhile, 74 per cent of women now realise that it’s the best option for a baby’s health and a further 78 per cent of respondents said breastfeeding is just a normal part of everyday life, according to the Infant Feeding Survey 2005.